You look at Joe Gibbs, at him quivering in anger last week and smiling in resignation today, and remember the Bum Phillips line that goes: "There's players in this league good enough to make you lose, 21-7."
Anyone familiar with both teams probably nodded when the Redskins pulled within 14-13 early in the fourth quarter today and thought: Philadelphia will play just well enough to win; Washington will play just badly enough to lose.
The contrasts here were vivid, and telling, in the final 10 minutes. With the confidence that stability and success generates, the Eagles could play nearly the entire game with both their regular runners and a standout linebacker sidelined with injuries and still win going away.
With the uncertainty that keeps building as losses and injuries mount, the Redskins wasted one timeout on George Starke because no one realized quickly enough that the officials will stop play for a hurt player to leave the game; wasted another deciding not to go for a touchdown on fourth and goal and let some career spear-carriers seem like all-pros.
Oh, yes. There was another major injury, to the man who when healthy is the one Redskin capable of producing points regularly: Mark Moseley.
For more than two games, Moseley has been hiding a muscle pull high in his kicking leg. He suffered it on a kickoff during the Giant disaster, aggravated it during practice Thursday and damaged it more on the second-half kickoff today.
Alert Washingtonians noticed Moseley hobbling after a fourth-quarter kickoff.
"It was already gone by then," he said.
Moseley refused to use the injury as an excuse for either of his first-half field-goal misses, from 37 and 44 yards. And both had more than enough distance, though he admitted:
"Thursday night after practice it really flared up. I kicked Wednesday and Thursday, because I thought I was over it, that it was healed. At home that night, it started hurting. I didn't kick Friday or Saturday."
Limping badly in the dressing room, Moseley said: "I'll play it by ear this week. I'm almost certain I can kick field goals. Really taped up, I went through the motions the second half, with an extra point." He used his field-goal approach on kickoffs.
Gibbs must look to the heavens more and more and wonder what has caused this conspiracy of injuries and incompetence. The play that most epitomized the Redskins, today and much of the season, came with less than four minutes left in the first half.
It was well conceived; it had been practiced several times during the week for just such an occasion; it failed.
On third and goal from the Philadelphia seven, the Eagles lined up in a familiar defensive set: 11 men on the line.
"Closer than your grandmother," Joe Theismann said.
The Redskins have a play for just that formation, and Theismann called it at the line. Waving and shouting, he called the can't-miss play. But not in time. The 30-second clock ticked off before the snap, so his pass to Art Monk in the end zone did not count.
After a timeout, Gibbs decided to accept the all-but-certain three points even a hobbling Moseley could provide rather than try for a touchdown on fourth and goal from the two. Later, he kept Moseley's field goal as the half ended instead of trying for a touchdown from slightly more than two yards after an Eagle penalty.
Both decisions seemed reasonable at the time, for the defense was playing well and the offense habitually finds ways not to score touchdowns, as though the end zone were mined.
Starke's injury, which seems serious but may not keep him out of Sunday's game against San Francisco at RFK Stadium, gave an obscure Redskin playing well under difficult circumstances another chance to show he belongs in the NFL.
That would be Joe Jacoby, the enormous rookie who replaced injured Russ Grimm at left guard last week and was doing nicely there until right tackle Starke was hurt today.
"The last time at right tackle?" he said. "Two weeks ago in practice, except when we're giving the defense (opponent's) looks. And you really can't get that much done then. It took a while (today), but I thought I did sufficiently well. At least I hope so."
As a team, the Redskins always seem to do sufficiently well for large gobs of most games. As Gibbs allowed today, too many players are not Jacoby-like. They do not react well to adversity. Collapse is an appropriate description, and Gibbs used it today.
Presumably, there will be no more talk that Theismann should be benched and rookie Tom Flick given a chance to grow with the rest of the younger players. That would be panic, rushing management's pet too soon, a sure way to destroy two quarterbacks.
In truth, the Redskins' record for anyone choosing to measure Gibbs is 0-2 instead of 0-4, for they were not expected to beat either the Cowboys or Eagles. Even though Rona Barrett has more depth, the Redskins' players were about equal to the Giants and Cardinals.
We judge Gibbs after games he has a decent chance to win, given all the injuries, and the 49ers are the third such test. With a quarter of the season complete, we are not quite sure what to make of him. At the very least, we were assuming a return to Otto Graham football, exciting 35-33 losses. So far, that has been too great an expectation.