It might have seemed like still another devastating loss in this nightmarish Washington season, but the Redskins disagreed. Today, they insisted, they regained some pride against the relentless power of the Philadelphia Eagles.
But even self-respect wasn't enough for Washington to overcome a myriad of penalties and mistakes that allowed the Eagles to walk away with a 24-14 victory that extended the Redskin losing streak to three and dropped their record to a dismal 1-4.
"We have to be a tough team," Coach Jack Pardee proclaimed afterward. "We have to play with some pride. With the talent we have and with the injuries we have, we had a super effort."
But he added in what best sums up the Redskin season so far: "We'll be a decent club, even if it's a bit late, if we can stop making so many mistakes."
Mistakes are a sign of a struggling team, and Washington certainly came up with more than its share of errors today. The Redskins were penalized 11 times for 93 yards, including six more holding calls, and quarterback Theismann threw one very costly interception. Toss in a handful of dropped passes and missed tackles and Pardee's team never gave itself a real chance to win.
Two Philadelphia scores set up by major Washington blunders in the final 2 1/2 minutes of hte first half put the game in the Eagles' control. And even though they could add only a third-quarter field goal to a 21-7 intermission lead, they never felt seriously threatened by the Redskins in the last 30 minutes.
Pardee was determined to make his players slug it out with Philadelphia (4-1). The Redskins kept running even when they trailed by two touchdowns because he feels the team won't win "until we learn how to move the ball on the ground and be physical and play with respect and effort.
"I saw improvement out there, even if we are still coming up with the short end of the straw too much," the coach said.
So even when Theismann had early success though the air -- his second pass went for a 54-yard touchdown to Ricky Thompson that put the Redskins ahead, 7-0 -- Washington pounded away at the Eagle's three-four defense. The result: 97 yards on 32 rushes, a 3.0 average.
"They say breaks even out," Theismann said, "but I'm sure getting tired of seeing everything going the other way. It's hard to get things going when we are facing second and 20 or second and 16 all the time."
He was asked if he disagreed with the play calling.
"No, I believe strongly in our philosophy," he said. "We wanted to come out and run on them. Against a three-four defense, you are looking for three, four, five yards a gain."
But if he passed well early, why not keep throwing?
"That's something you'd have to think about," Theismann said.
The Redskins actually wound up with 17 more yards than the Eagles as Theismann, finally forced to play catchup, completed 19 of 33 passes for 232 yards. But in between the strike to Thompson and a 48-yarder to rookie Art Monk in the fourth quarter that led to the team's other touchdown, Philadelphia limited Washington mostly to short- and medium-range passes. They weren't enough to offset a litany of penalties and mistakes.
Three errors near the end of the first half were particularly crucial.
The first was Theismann's interception. Wide receiver John McDaniel ran a go pattern down the right sideline while Theismann, throwing out of his end zone after a Philadelphia punt went out of bounds on the five, lofted a long, high throw. McDaniel was open for a few strides, but the ball was underthrown and rookie cornerback Roynell Young, the Eagles' No. 1 draft choice, came back to the Washington 43 and outfought the Redskin end for the ball.
Young then displayed some impressive running ability. He dashed away from McDaniel, cut across field to the other sideline and finally was forced out at the Washington 17.
Philadelphia turned to brute strength to punch the ball in from there. The Eagles called five running plays, four with Wilbert Montgomery carrying, to score. Montgomery, playing despite a sore hip pointer, went the final three standing up around right end. Tony Franklin kicked the conversion for a 14-7 lead with 2:50 to go in the second period.
On the ensuing series, Washington was forced to punt. Mike Connell got off a high, long kick that Philadelphia's Wally Henry could return just three yards to his 21. Enter Redskin mistake No. 2. They were called for leaving the line of scrimmage too soon and they had to do it all over again.
This time, Connell kicked a weak line drive that Henry caught on the run and brought back six yards to his 49. Washington's Ray Waddy was tagged for unnecessary roughness -- mistake No. 3 -- and now the ball was on the Redskin 36, a turnaround of 43 yards.
Quarterback Ron Jaworski quickly took advantage of the break. He connected for 19 yards with Harold Carmichael, who had four catches on the day, and for five to Montgomery, who then ran for six on a sweep to the six.
Moments later, Carmichael cut across the middle. Jaworski rolled to his right, stopped and fired a strike to his 6-foot-8 target. Cornerback Joe Lavender made a fine try at knocking down the pass, but his leaping effort against this moving crane wasn't enough. Another Franklin extra point and the Eagles took a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
The Redskins knew they had to play a nearly perfect game to beat their stronger, healthier opponents, and those were errors they couldn't afford to make. Now Phildelphia, which came into the game planning to be conservative and keep the ball on the ground against Washington's porous defense, could concentrate on controlling the clock.
And that's what the Eagles did for the most part in the second half. Jaworski had bruised his elbow in the opening half and didn't throw that much the rest of the game. But every time, it seemed, the Redskins stopped his running attack, which happened often, he would find an opening in the Washington nickel defense that kept the drive alive.
"I was disappointed we didn't run the ball better," Coach Dick Vermeil said. "But I give the Washington defense credit for that. Fortunately, we were able to come up with some big plays against their nickel, even though our approach going in was to try to avoid it (the nickel)."
Ironically, Washington had hoped to force the Eagles to pass, and Pardee said he was satisfied with holding them to 139 yards on the ground. But the Redskins should have realized Philadelphia's offense still was too good when, on third and one from the Eagle 49 in the first period, Jaworski faked a run, stepped back and found fullback Leroy Harris open in the left flat. Harris raced downfield, then outwrestled linebacker Monte Coleman at the two before falling into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
"I just missed the man," said safety Ken Houston, who spent much of the remainder of the game on the bench watching Tony Peters in his spot."I was looking for the run. It was a good call."
Harris actually was Jaworski's third target. But tight end Keith Krepfle was held on the play and the quarterback didn't see a wide-open Carmichael. But with the Redskins hugging the line of scrimmage on the shortyardage play, there were plenty of available receivers.
Washington could have used some similar defensive mistakes by Philadelphia but the Eagles were taking few chances after intermission. And every time Theismann got the offense in gear, a holding penalty would slam the door. For example, the Redskins had a first down at the Philadelphia 20 early in the third nullified by a holding call on tackle Gary Anderson, the first of three he would pick up playing for Terry Hermeling, who suffered a slight concussion on the last play of the first half.
Another Washington threat was wiped out by a missed 42-yard field goal by Mark Moseley, who now is just two of 10 fo the season. Finally, the long pass to Monk and a 10-yard romp up the middle by fullback Rickey Claitt in the fourth resulted in the Redskins' seocnd score.
Thompson had gotten the Redskins off to a stunning start when he worked behind free safety Bernard Wilson at the Philadelphia 15, took Theismann's pass in stride and outraced linebacker Jerry Robinson into the end zone with 10:05 left in the opening quarter.
That was the type of play Pardee thought might turn the Redskins into a much better team. It did keep them competitive for a while. But the Eagles still had too much strength at too many spots, even though the Redskins played with much more enthusiasm and tackled better than they had earlier in the season, especially last week in a flat showing against Seattle. e
"We came here to become a football team, not just concentrate on running or passing or any one thing," Pardee said. "If we work next week as hard as we did the past week, we'll keep getting better. And then maybe we'll start winning."