PHILADELPHIA, JAN. 5 -- A visitor from Washington came to Philadelphia today fearing the worst. Remember the last time here, the massacre in November when nine Redskins were carried out as Buddy Ryan, the Eagles' boisterous coach, howled in delight. The Redskins weren't that beaten up when they lost 73-0 fifty years ago.
All this week, the Eagles had continued to trash the Redskins in their talk, and a whole city seemed to be in wait for Washington's team. One expected Rocky to be at the Veterans Stadium gate, ready to punch out somebody. Or Chuck Bednarik to come rumbling out of the stands and level a Redskin.
Tough town, Philly.
But not too tough for these Redskins.
Strong, silent types, like their Coach Joe Gibbs -- who could hardly say anything this week because his teeth were clenched with firm purpose -- the Redskins rose up and treated this game as if it were the Super Bowl.
And in its own way, the result was just as sweet as that last postseason appearance three years ago in San Diego. By 20-6, the Redskins made the Eagles eat their harsh words in every bit as lopsided a 14-point victory as was the 28-14 Philadelphia lacing here in November.
"I'm sleepin'," the suddenly relaxed Gibbs told a friend after the Redskins had withstood still more abuse from Philadelphia's fans, held off the Eagles convincingly with action not talk and all but silenced Ryan. Gibbs hadn't done much sleeping lately, while devising the way to atone for November. Now he could nap.
The Redskins gave the Eagles a lesson in how to accept victory. Most of the Redskins declined to comment -- following Gibbs's wishes -- on remarks made by Philadelphia players in November that Washington would need body bags for the trip home.
"A team makes its own respect," said linebacker Monte Coleman after the Redskins had gained plenty on the field and were amassing more in the locker room as they accepted a much-wanted victory.
"When you get beat as badly as we did that Monday night, it carries over and it sticks in your craw," Gibbs did concede. "Our guys wanted to play hard, I was convinced of that. Whether we were good enough to beat the Eagles, that was the question."
It was answered resoundingly in the Redskins' favor with the help of two game-turning developments. The first came in the second quarter with the Eagles leading, 3-0, and proved that the Redskins would let their play do the talking.
Following a fumble by Gerald Riggs at the Redskins 26-yard line, Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham passed 15 yards to Keith Jackson and, with the help of a Redskins holding penalty three plays later, Philadelphia had a first down at the 2. But the Redskins' defense silenced Philadelphia critics by holding the Eagles to a field goal.
"That was the turning point of the game," said Richie Petitbon, Redskins assistant head coach/defensive, an opinion shared by Gibbs.
Then, just before the half, the Eagles -- and their fans -- began growing as frustrated as the Redskins had been in November. Boos cascaded down from the Philadelphia partisans -- most of the 65,287 -- when an apparent Redskins fumble was overruled by instant replay officials, wiping out an Eagles touchdown as well.
"It turned around a touchdown going the other way -- it's a big play," said Gibbs.
Earnest Byner had carried a pass from Mark Rypien to the Eagles 6 only to fumble. Defensive back Ben Smith scooped up the loose ball and ran and ran until he crossed the goal line at the other end of the stadium.
Cheers echoed as it was announced officials on the field ruled a touchdown. Expressions of outrage followed when it was further announced the play was being "reviewed."
When the play was reversed and the Redskins were given the ball in perfect scoring position, a roar of protest went up and Eagles' hopes began to look seriously deflated. Chip Lohmiller kicked a field goal and the Redskins took a 10-6 halftime lead. "When they stopped us," said the Eagles' Jackson, "it pumped up their defense."
The second half was all Redskins, with the Eagles unraveling and the crowd growing more and more squirmy and quiet. When Ryan replaced Cunningham for one series with former Chicago Bear Jim McMahon, it was as if the coach were sending up a flare that signaled certain defeat.
"I didn't find out until Jim was out on the field," said an angered Cunningham. "I've been playing hard all year, then to get pulled was really strange. . . .
"It was insulting."
Asked if he would like to be back next season, the yet-unsigned Ryan said with characteristic modesty: "Why would I want someone else to take all the bows? I built this team."
But Ryan knew the truth of this day as well as Gibbs and Petitbon -- that the Redskins' defense had been superb, sacking Cunningham five times and stopping the Eagles 11 of 12 times on third down. "It's hard to win a ballgame when you don't block anybody," Ryan said after his team exited the playoffs in the first round for the third straight season.
As it grew darker, you could hardly tell it was the same place that had given the Redskins such an inhospitable welcome. When the visitors came out to warm up, there were all these big guys in the end zone stands, yelling down at them. The fans looked as big as the Hogs too, with whiskers and ski hats pulled down and coats with lots of padding. "Go back to Washington. . . . You're washed up, baby. . . . We're gonna be comin' after Rypien, after Rip. . . . "
"This Year We Mean Business," a sign read. Some in the stands had the numbers of their favorite players painted in green on their faces. A man with his hair dyed green inflated a huge plastic Eagles helmet and donned it.
Looking grim and ignoring the taunts, Gibbs hung out behind Rypien, watching the quarterback throwing easy warm-up passes.
Rypien more than did his part in taking the crowd out of the game with a second-period, 16-yard touchdown pass to Art Monk to give the Redskins a lead they didn't relinquish. "We didn't want to come into today's game too high," Rypien said. "There was a lot of stuff said and written this week and we just wanted to prove what happened here on that Monday night isn't the way we play."
They proved it, despite the Eagles' every effort. Even Jerome Brown showed up. The defensive tackle has been injured and was not expected to play. Ryan, throwing a little dart, had said they'd be saving him for next week. Brown held out hope of playing; he said it was "40-70" that he could make it, proving math isn't his game.
How sweet it was for the Redskins as they came whooping up the tunnel to their locker room after the game.
By that time, it was very quiet in Philadelphia and, on the whole, not the happiest place to be.