The Redskins tried to advance to a higher National Football League plateau today but failed miserably when they couldn't handle Philadelphia's Wilbert Montgomery and Ron Jaworski.
Utilizing a new offensive set put in especially for the game, Montgomery and Jaworski combined for 276 total yards and four touchdowns in a 28-17 Eagle victory that ended Washington's four-game winning streak.
The Redskins knew entering the game they had to halt Montgomery's power rushes and force Jaworski to pass frequently if they had any chance of upsetting the improving Eagles.
But Montgomery's crushing gains, which accounted for 127 yards, made Washington so run conscious that Jaworski was able to utilize play-action passes for eight completions (on just 12 attempts) that totaled a whopping 143 yards.
One of the completions was good for an 11-yard touchdown to Montgomery, who also scored on runs of eight, five and four yards to give him nine against the Redskins in the teams' last three games.
Today's four touchdowns tied an Eagle record and left Philadelphia 5-1, tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East. The Redskins are 4-2.
The Eagle offense dominated so much, thanks in part to a fine effort from its offensive line, that Washington's usually opportunistic defense could not force a turnover or rack up a sack.
Without the benefit of any breaks, the Redskin offense was able to generate only one touchdown, off an impressive 76-yard drive, before Philadelphia had jumped to a 28-7 advantage.
By then, the Eagles' control of the game was so great the Redskins opted for a time-consuming, ball-control attack in the fourth period. Although Washington scored twice in that quarter, the strategy ate up nine minutes on the clock.
The game exposed a Redskin weakness. Without an effective long passing attack -- and without injured receiver Ricky Thompson -- Washington doesn't have the weapons to rally from large deficits.
Philadelphia's performance overshadowed John Riggins' 115-yard two-touchdown effort, the 14th time in his career he has gained at least 100 yards. Riggins became the 13th player in NFL history to pass the 6,000 yard rushing mark.
"They were beating us to the charge along the line," defensive back Lemar Parrish said. "To control a running game, you have to control the line of scrimmage. But they were controlling us and opening up some nice holes. And that's all a back like Montgomery needs."
To offset Washington's tendency to use Ken Houston as an extra linebacker to bolster its rushing defense, Philadelphia this week moved receiver Harold Carmichael to a wingback spot. From there, he became an extra blocker on running plays, especially to the left side.
Jaworski passed more than normal on first down, again to capitalize on Houston playing close to the line of scrimmage on normal running downs.
"We felt we could move (Diron) Talbert out and (Rich) Milot is so young he is susceptible," said Jaworski, explaining the Eagles' abundance of plays against Washington's right side. "We got some plays going well that way early and so we stayed with it."
Talbert, the Redskin tackle on the right side, was replaced in the second quarter by Paul Smith and later Perry Brooks. But the changes couldn't stop Montgomery's progress, especially after Jaworski's first down passing (four of five for 80 yards) neutralized Houston and left Washington's vulnerable rushing defense exposed.
"Trying to defeat those double-team blocks with Carmichael helping out wasn't easy," said Milot, the Redskin rookie linebacker.
"They are a cutback type of team and the only way you can beat that is to play better than we did."
Any hope the Redskins had of winning ended early in the third quarter when the Eagles intercepted a tipped Joe Theismann pass -- Washington's only turnover -- and quickly turned the mistake into a 21-7 lead.
But Washington Coach Jack Pardee played down that interception. "That was just icing on the cake," he said. "The difference was we just couldn't handle Jaworski and Montgomery. You can't have 11 guys on the line of scrimmage to stop the run and eight back to stop the pass. You just can't play that many players.
"Once they got their running game going, it hurt us. That's why everyone tries to run, including us. It makes their play-action passes more effective. You start thinking run and they pass on you.
"But it's tough to design a defense to stop Montgomery. You need to tackle him by wrapping your arms around him but that's hard when you are always fighting off a blocker. They have a good offensive scheme to utilize Montgomery's abilities."
As to why he replaced Talbert, who was not injured, Pardee said: "The Eagles getting ahead took us out of some of our stunts, so we had to play them more straight. We feel Paul Smith is tough against the run and we thought they were going to run."
The Redskins made the game look much closer, statistically, than it actually was by putting together two long, meaningless scoring drives in the fourth period.
The two marches, which ended in a 37-yard Mark Moseley field goal and Riggins' one-yard touchdown plunge, enabled Washington to rack up 318 total yards, compared to 352 for Philly, and to hold the ball 32 1/2 minutes, compared to 27 1/2 for the Eagles.
"We were having success running," said Pardee about the fourth-period tactics. "And it was a wet field with a wet football and we were going into the wind, which are tough conditions to pass. We took what they gave us.
"But our offense played well enough. I was satisfied with our effort. We just didn't force any turnovers and we never got any field position. We need turnovers to win. You can't hope to go 80 yards too often."
Philadelphia didn't have to worry about field position. The Eagles, behind that impressive offensive line, overpowered Washington's defensive front and created their own scoring opportunities.
"We didn't play particularly well against a good team," said safety Mark Murphy. "That's the best offensive line we've faced. We let them take it to us. We sat back on our haunches and you can't do that if you expect to win."
The Eagles established a pattern for the rest of the game on their second possession. Jaworski caught the Redskins in a safety blitz, with Houston and two linebackers dogging, and completed a long pass to right end Keith Krepfle.
Krepfle, Jaworski's favorite receiver, caught the ball on the Redskin 45. Murphy tried to stop him with a chest-high tackle but the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Krepfle swatted him away with a straight arm and rambled to the eight.
On first down, Montgomery shot straight up the gut of the Washington defense and whooshed into the end zone standing up. Rookie Tony Franklin added the extra point and Philadelphia led, 7-0, with 1:38 to go in the first quarter.
After forcing a Washington punt, Jaworski put together an 82-yard drive that included a 20-yard pass to Carmichael and a 22-yard completion to Krepfle, who juggled the ball and finally pulled it against his chest while on the ground.
On a first down from the 11, Montgomery ran a delay pattern and Jaworski picked him up at the five. Montgomery caught the pass ahead of Milot and Murphy, and scampered in. Another Franklin conversion increased the lead to 14-0.
Washington needed to halt Philadelphia's momentum at this point or risk getting blown out before halftime. Joe Theismann reacted by driving his team from its 24 for a touchdown. To maintain possession, Theismann had to complete third-down passes of five, nine, nine and nine and seven yards -- three of them caught by John McDaniel -- before finding Riggins open for a four-yard touchdown pass.
Early in the third quarter, the players were soaked by a torrential rainstorm. In the middle of the downpour, Theismann's bullet pass to Jean Fugett down the middle was too high and bounced off the tight end's outstretched hand.
Philadelphia's Bernard Wilson caught the errant ball and brought it back to the Redskin 40. Jaworski took advantage of Joe Lavender's man-to-man coverage against Carmichael and completed a 35-yard pass. Montgomery again slammed into the end zone and Philadelphia was ahead, 21-7.
The Eagles put things out of reach by methodically moving 77 yards on 11 running plays. Montgomery carried six times in the march, ending with a four-yard dash off left tackle for a 28-7 margin.
Theismann finished with another decent performance. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked just once by the NFC's leading pass rushing team.
"A lot of what we did in the fourth period was meaningless," Riggins said. I thought we could give them a good game but it didn't turn out that way. Give them credit. They just beat us. It's that simple."
The Redskins reported three injuries in the game. Guard Jeff Williams has a sprained back, Fugett a sprained knee and linebacker Pete Wysocki a strained calf. A club spokesman said the injuries were not considered major.