When Mark Moseley's second dramatic field goal of the game cleared the crossbar to give the Washington Redskins an emotional, 37-34 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Eagles today, Coach Joe Gibbs stood on the sideline and jabbed his fist into the air again and again.
After surviving an 0-5 start in his coaching debut last year, Gibbs finally got the break he has been striving for: a victory on the road against an opponent like the Eagles, a Super Bowl team just two years ago.
"This is the one we wanted so very badly," said Gibbs, who admitted he was thoroughly exhausted after a game each team thought it had won at least twice. "Last year, we probably would have come apart. Today, we didn't."
This was a game in which Moseley, whom the Redskins talked about trading 10 days ago, made good on all three of his field goal tries, including the 48-yarder that tied the score with time expiring, and solidified his once precarious spot on the roster.
This was a game in which quarterback Joe Theismann overcame his normal impatience and produced the performance of his professional career. This was a game in which Art Monk, whose 27-yard reception set up the final field goal, gave notice that he could be emerging as one of the National Football League's best receivers.
And this was a game to be relished and relived for days to come.
It seemed to be settled at least a half-dozen times. Certainly, Moseley's 30-yard field goal that gave the Redskins a 31-27 edge with 3:48 left ended the Eagles' hopes. Certainly, Harold Carmichael's lying-on-the-ground touchdown catch with 64 seconds to go, putting the Eagles ahead, 34-31, ended Washington's hopes.
But somehow Theismann regrouped his offense twice more. First, he drove the Redskins 33 yards in seven plays, after Mike Nelms returned the kickoff to his 37, to set up Moseley's 48-yarder that tied the score at 34.
After the Redskins won the coin toss and received the overtime kickoff, Theismann guided them 62 yards in eight plays, with Moseley kicking the game-winner from 26 yards with 4:47 elapsed in the extra period.
"You hope something like this can happen, but it's almost impossible to believe it really will," linebacker Neal Olkewicz said. "We were down and nearly out and the offense pulled it out. You can't describe the feeling along the sideline in overtime. We've waited a long time for this."
The Redskins had given little evidence in an 0-4 exhibition season they could produce this kind of game. But even though they gave up 426 yards to the Eagles and allowed them to go 90 yards to get Carmichael's touchdown, today the Redskins hardly were the same team that lost to Cincinnati nine days ago.
The victory stands, for now, as Theismann's proudest moment. Working against the best defense in the league last year, he patiently exploited the Eagles' secondary, throwing for 382 yards -- second best in his career -- and three touchdowns by completihg a career high 28 passes out of 39 thrown. And his 78-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Charlie Brown in the fourth quarter was his second longest ever.
"Joe was a little shaky last year early, but he asked us to stick with him and today was the best I've seen him play," Gibbs said. "This was the Joe Theismann we were hoping to see."
Said Theismann: "This is the best game I've had. It's the sweetest, because we won here, against a great team. I wanted to show maturity this year and I hope this game is a good start toward that goal."
Monk was just as good. He caught eight passes, his most in a game as a pro, for 134 yards and a touchdown. He made the hard catches, including three on the Redskins' final two possessions that set up Moseley's tying and winning field goals. Brown helped out significantly with five receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns, taking some of the pressure off Monk.
And the offensive line, which had problems protecting Theismann in the preseason, allowed only one sack, in the first half, which resulted in a fumble. Monday, the coaches gambled and decided to switch from man-to-man to zone blocking. It paid off with plenty of passing time for Theismann, even though left guard Russ Grimm went out with bruised ribs and right guard Mark May was hobbling with strained knee ligaments.
Yet the Eagles came very close to negating all those fine performances by the Redskins, including the 487 yards the offense gained and the surprising six sacks by the heretofore meek defensive line. End Dexter Manley had two sacks, as did newcomer Tony McGee.
Leading, 10-0, midway through the first period, the Eagles recovered Nelms' kickoff fumble at the Washington 18. One more touchdown might have been the knockout blow, but Wilbert Montgomery lost control of the ball on an end sweep and the Redskins regained possession at their 15.
"I had visions of early last year happening again," Theismann said. "All too many mistakes too soon. I didn't want us to fall apart."
Monk's marvelous, 43-yard catch over the middle began a comeback that resulted in two touchdowns -- a leaping, five-yard reception by Monk and an eight-yard catch by Brown -- and a 14-10 lead with 35 seconds left in the half.
Gibbs then made a decision he later would regret. The Eagles were content to run out the clock, but Gibbs called time, hoping to force a punt, he said. Philadelphia answered with Ron Jaworski's 46-yard pass to Carmichael that enabled Tony Franklin to kick a 44-yard field goal as time ran out.
When the Eagles scored twice to open the third quarter, taking a 27-14 lead, the game again appeared to be over. But Brown, on a fly pattern, outran cornerback Herman Edwards for the 78-yard score "and that got everyone on the sidelines alive and cooking again," Theismann said. "I wanted to give Charlie a change."
Nelms' punt return to the Eagles' 48 preceded a two-yard, go-ahead touchdown by John Riggins with 6:17 left. Riggins filled in well for injured Joe Washington, gaining 66 rushing yards.
The Eagles then tried a desperate gamble when linebacker Frank LeMaster, the up back in their punt formation, took a short snap and tried for a first down at his 23. He bobbled the snap and was stopped short, leading to Moseley's 30-yarder for a 31-27 lead with 3:48 left.
That, too, should have been it. But Jaworski constantly outguessed the Redskins' secondary on the impressive 90-yard drive that ended when he lobbed a pass to the 6-foot-8 Carmichael in the end zone. Joe Lavender and Carmichael leaped, the ball was tipped, Carmichael fell and then pulled in the ball as he lay on his back. Franklin's conversion made it 34-31 with 1:04 to go.
The Redskins figured they had to get to the Eagle 35 to give Moseley a shot. Franklin's short kickoff helped and Nelms returned it to the 37.A seven-yard pass to rookie Mike Williams and a 10-yard pass to Monk got one first down. An Eagle offside accounted for another and Theismann's scramble picked up four to the Philadelphia 31 with six seconds left. Moseley's kick, as time expired, would have been good from 60 yards.
In overtime, the Redskins began at their 28. "We wanted to peck away," Gibbs said. First came a five-yard pass to Brown, who funbled but recovered. Then a screen to Monk for one yard. Clarence Harmon, on a risky call, got a first down on a draw to the 40. "If the run fails, I'm a goat," Gibbs said.
After a holding call on center Jeff Bostic, Gibbs called a crossing pattern for Monk. He went from right to left across the field inside Don Warren's out move, caught the ball in midfield, stepped away from linebacker Jerry Robinson and was downed after gaining 27 yards to the Eagles' 42. The crowd grew silent.
Three plays later, the Redskins ran "dash left, 39 comeback." Monk, lined up on the right, went in motion left and then ran 10 yards downfield and came back toward Theismann. The ball met him there as Edwards tried desperately to cut in front and knock it down. When he failed, Monk turned and dashed to the nine.
That was enough for Gibbs. In came Moseley for the game-winning kick.
While teammates mobbed Moseley in the end zone, Gibbs began his own, private celebration near the bench.