Two young, unlikely candidates - Dennis Johnson and Larry Jones - were the sources of the Redskin pregame inspiration yesterday.
Their teammates who had struggled, sometimes somewhat lackadaisically, to a 3-3 start this NFL season, credited Johnson and Jones for putting them in the right frame of mind to go out and beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
Starting defensive end Johnson, 26, overheard Jones' impassioned pleas to the special teamers to play the kind of rah-rah football George Allen-coached teams have thrived on. Suddenly, as the team was ready to leave the locker room, Johnson unloaded his emotional pep talk. He later said it was unplanned.
"Dennis just said, 'Let's just go out and play Redskin football and do what we know we can do," guard Ron Saul recalled. "He was really fired up, just like everybody else in the room, I was just glad he said it."
"It was important," said tight end Jean Fugett, who caught two touch down passes from Joe Theismann. "It was a guy who doesn't play regularly and a guy who doesn't talk regularly getting the point across."
Later, after sacking Eagle quarter-back Ron Jaworski twice, Johnson would say:
"When things get bad, people forget how much they love each other. It's like (team chaplain) Tom Skinner stresses. You've got to love your fellow man, and I think for awhile, the team was afraid to show how much we love one another.
"A lot of guys say rah-rah stuff is just college. Well, when you've been together since July, you've got to feel something for them. I just think everybody today said, "Hell, I love them and I'm going to let them know it."
The on-field scene yesterday was similar to the emotion shown by those players who mobbed 38-year-old Ron McDole following his interception against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"It was a good feeling," Johnson said. "I might never experience as good a feeling as long as I live because of the love I saw here today.
"Everybody can't be a leader. There are times that it is called upon you. You know when it's time for you to stand up and say something. And today I couldn't hold it back. I had to say it.
"We were going to go out there and score some points. We were going to overcome holding penalties: overcome bad calls. Today we were going to let nothing bring us down in any phase of the game. They got a big runback, and we said we were going to overcome everything today."
What Jones had told the special teams was essentially, "Remember our roots, the team unity thing," according to special teams member Pete Wysocki, who suffered a pulled hamstring on the opening kickoff.
"It's nice to know someone will stand up and express ideas concerning their teammates," said Wysocki. "Instead of playing football like you're afraid to lose, we played like we were trying to win. Play full out and let the chips fall where they may."
The Eagles tried to let them fall at left cornerback Gerard Williams, the second-year man who is replacing 17-year veteran Pat Fischer. Williams responded with the first two interceptions of his NFL career.
Williams has been under heavy pressure from coach George Allen and from the media. Williams talked about how the interceptions would affect his confidence and future opponents' plans.
"It lets me know I'm improving and gives me confidence on through the season," Williams said. "I feel they are going to throw at me all year. I'm new on defense and they're going to test me, pick on me all year. I've just got to be ready."
In the Philadelphia locker room, the feeling was that the better team lost and that Allen's move to replace Billy Kilmer at quarterback with Theismann was a nifty one.
"It gave them something they didn't have before - mobility," said the losing quarterback, Ron Jaworski.
"We didn't get to Theismann enough on the pass rush," said line-backer Frank LeMaster.
"We let him get out of the pocket. That was the whole key to everything today. We should have contained him a lot better than we did. It was a pretty good move. Anytime the quarterback can run and pass it's a whole new dimension in the game" LeMaster said.
"Theismann did a great job," said Eagle head coach Dick Vermeil, a former Allen assistant. "He came up with some key scrambles. He threw downfield a little more efficiently than Billy (does)."
"We're a better team," linebacker Bill Bergey insisted. "But the way Theismann scrambled made him look like the Almighty."