The Punishers

The Redskins overcome an early two-touchdown deficit to extend their winning streak to four games, rallying for a 23-17 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.
By Thomas Boswell
Monday, October 6, 2008

PHILADELPHIA Each week, the Washington Redskins continue the dazzling process of discovering who they are while simultaneously amazing everybody else. This time, the Philadelphia Eagles were the team left stunned and listening to hometown boos after a 23-17 beating, just as the Cowboys looked shocked last week.

Now, with back-to-back wins on the road against NFC East foes, something no Washington team has done since the '87 Super Bowl champs, the Redskins of Jim Zorn are coming into focus fast. They're an 18-wheeler. You're not.

Some teams can start 4-1 but their record can mean little and hide much. Norv Turner began 7-1 in 1996, but that Redskins team struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs. This 4-1 start, however, appears to be full of muscle.

For the last month, the Redskins haven't cared who they played or where, whether they took a lead or fell behind. Even more impressive, for the last two weeks, they have brazenly bludgeoned two of the league's most physically imposing teams, dominating both lines of scrimmage.

Rushing yardage tells it all: Washington has 364 yards in the past two games while those scrawny guys from Dallas and Philly combined for just 102. Clinton Portis alone had 145 yards here after 121 in Dallas.

On a day when the Eagles greeted the Redskins with an 80-yard scoring drive and a 68-yard punt return for a 14-0 first-quarter lead, Washington responded by thumping Philly the rest of the afternoon. The Redskins built a 203-to-22 dominance in rushing yards thereafter. No, 'tis not a misprint. That just doesn't happen here. But it did.

"There's something to be said for how you beat a team," tackle Jon Jansen said. Last week, the Redskins fat-lipped the Cowboys with a 161-44 edge in rushing yardage and 38 minutes 9 seconds of ball control. This time, after the first Philly drive, the Redskins ran 75 plays to 35 for the Eagles. Also, the Redskins still have zero offensive turnovers.

The word's getting out: The Redskins will steamroll you, right up until Zorn calls a flanker reverse pass with Antwaan Randle El connecting for an 18-yard score to Chris Cooley. Or until Jason Campbell calls for a snap on "first sound" and Portis dashes untouched four yards for the winning touchdown before half the surprised Eagles even got in their stances. "We surprised 'em," Portis said.

"Give them credit," Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said, "for sticking to what they like to do, which is run the ball."

Actually, Portis may have gotten the ball 50 times the last two weeks, but he is just part of a pleasing balanced attack. "We've defied convention. We've been able to go to Portis. We've got the gadget plays, the outside plays, the short pass and the long pass," guard Pete Kendall said. "It's come to the point where you have to defend the whole field."

Whatever depth of poise or variation of style has been necessary for the last month, the Redskins have found it. One risky late-game call showed several of the threads in the fabric the Redskins are weaving as a team and its coach learn to trust and appreciate each other.

With 2:53 to play, the Redskins needed to convert on third and two from the Eagles 38 to salt away the game. Should they just give the ball to Portis? Perhaps.

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