To chart the course of the Washington Redskins' 20-0 victory over the Eagles before 53,064 at RFK Stadium yesterday, you can't overlook the obvious.
Most of all, the Eagles were inept.
"I wouldn't say that," Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz said, "primarily because we have to play them again."
This was hardly a vintage performance by the Redskins, who continued their excavation from an 0-2 start with their third straight victory and their first shutout since a 28-0 victory over St. Louis here in the final game of the 1982 season. But it didn't have to be a vintage effort yesterday.
Fullback John Riggins ran for 104 yards on 28 time-consuming carries and scored a third-quarter touchdown. Quarterback Joe Theismann did some of his finest scrambling, gaining 56 yards, and threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Art Monk on a razzle-dazzle play that helped the Redskins build a 10-0 halftime edge.
Mark Moseley kicked two field goals and the Redskins' special teams played their most complete game of the year. Mike Nelms broke off a 46-yard punt return in the first quarter, his longest since a 75-yarder against New England three years ago. Although the return didn't lead to points, surely it slowed talk of Nelms' decline.
"I still don't feel like our offense is in a groove," Coach Joe Gibbs said. And guard Mark May added, "We have to get back to last year when we were scoring 30-something points per game. Right now, it seems like we're just getting by."
Eagles Coach Marion Campbell was left to lament his team's 1-4 start, telling a questioner who kindly mentioned the word "progress:" "How the hell can you make progress when you get your butt beat, 20-0? If that's progress, you must come from another planet."
The Eagles' offense barely budged at all. Is the appropriate word pitiful? Quarterback Ron Jaworski was sacked four times and completed only 18 of 35 passes for 170 yards, with one interception (by cornerback Vernon Dean).
The Eagles netted just 76 yards rushing. It often seemed that a defender was already in the backfield by the time Jaworski made his handoffs, so ineffective was the offensive line.
The Redskins often doubled-covered all-pro receiver Mike Quick, limiting him to two catches, both on a third-quarter drive. That same 10-play, 74-yard drive was the longest of the day for the Eagles, but it ended when Jaworski, fearing a blitz by bluffing free safety Curtis Jordan, took the snap, tripped and fell, then fumbled at the Redskins' 21.
Defensive tackle Darryl Grant recovered and the Eagles' spirits were broken for good. "I just saw (Jaworski) squeezing the ball and when the guys swooped in on him, it squeezed out like a seed," Grant said.
"We didn't attack them with Mike (Quick) until we were behind, 17-0," said Jaworski, whose offense hasn't scored a touchdown in eight quarters. Asked why he didn't look to Quick sooner, Jaworski said, "I just execute the plays. I don't call them."
Quick said, "I felt like I was open, but I don't call the plays." Ted Marchibroda, the offensive coordinator, does call the plays for the Eagles, but he left the locker room quickly and without comment. Perhaps he realized that Theismann had rushed for as many first downs in the game -- five -- as the Eagles.
"The last time I ran for that many yards, I was playing in Canada and I was 22," said Theismann, who completed nine of 20 passes for 114 yards. "Everybody was double-covered except me, so I ran."
Gibbs said of Theismann's seeming redefinition of the one-back attack, "He ran more than we wanted him to. I don't like it. I'd rather have him in the pocket and run once or twice. That's what the great ones do."
"The receivers were covered," said linebacker Jerry Robinson of the Eagles. "I just looked and he was running all over the place. There are supposed to be contain lanes, but people weren't there."
Even a long series of injuries seemed to slow a bit for the Redskins. Strangely, the most severe of their injuries was incurred by a field employe, who accidentally became entangled on a sideline tackle and sprained his knee.
"Looks like that guy will have to go on injured reserve," Jordan cracked. Actually, only two Redskins incurred worrisome injuries: Jordan broke his right thumb, but noted that he played several games last year with a broken thumb and that he is "sure" that he will play Sunday at Indianapolis.
Gibbs said he is uncertain about the severity of the injury to wide receiver Charlie Brown, who didn't play in the second half. Brown sprained his left ankle attempting to catch a pass and estimates on his return range from day-to-day to two weeks. Trainer Bubba Tyer was left saying, "We've decided to take the team picture this year in the trainer's room."
Perhaps a touch of levity was allowable. After all, the real story seemed to be the Eagles'. Last week, their owner, Leonard Tose, had predicted a victory over San Francisco before his Eagles were grounded, 21-9.
Late yesterday, Tose was asked if he thought his team had the talent to win and he responded in a resigned way: "I did believe it. I'm not sure any more."
Even though the special teams twice arranged prime field position in the first quarter -- Nelms' 46-yard return put the ball at Philadelphia's 46 and strong safety Ken Coffey, who was just off injured reserve, deflected Bill Horan's punt, which Nelms returned seven yards to the Eagles' 49 -- the Redskins did not capitalize. Moseley had a 49-yard field goal attempt blocked in the second series.
All at once, though, that scoreless ice thawed early in the second quarter. On second and six from the Redskins' 49, Theismann handed to Riggins, who ran right, then turned to shovel the ball two-handed back to Theismann.
This shenanigan allowed Monk time to race downfield, past cornerback Elbert Foules deep down the right side. Theismann's pass was precise. Monk had his first touchdown catch of the season and the Redskins led, 7-0, with 13:39 left in the half.
"That play is really an investment for our running game," Gibbs said. "We don't use it for one play. We do it to keep the safeties off of our running game."
One drive later, Theismann passed to tight end Don Warren for a key 20-yard gain, to the Eagles' 35. Riggins followed with four carries, taking the ball to the 20. (For the record book: this was the 29th time that Riggins has rushed for 100 yards or more in his 162-game pro career.)
When this drive stalled, Moseley's 35-yard field goal made it 10-0 at the half. Then, early in the third quarter, Theismann keynoted a 12-play, 77-yard drive with scrambling ingenuity.
On third and four from the Eagles' 35, he faded back and, upon realizing that all receivers were covered, scrambled up the middle for 27 yards, to the eight.
One play later came the Redskins' favorite "Counter-trey" play that takes left tackle Joe Jacoby and left guard Russ Grimm across to the right side as lead blockers. Following both all-pros, Riggins ran through a wide hole and went untouched into the end zone. His seventh touchdown of the year was the 101st of his 13-year career, moving him past Franco Harris into fourth place on the all-time list.
It was 17-0 with 2:25 left in the quarter. On the Eagles' next possession, Jaworski fumbled the ball and the game into the arms of defensive tackle Grant. Moseley added a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and a gentle rain began to fall, long after the Eagles had fallen.
For the second week in a row, Gibbs awarded his players two offdays. During that time, the Redskins might take pride in how their defense has revived and survived despite the absence of three injured starters -- end Todd Liebenstein, linebacker Rich Milot and all-pro free safety Mark Murphy.
They might take pride in how rookie Keith Griffin ran for 57 yards on seven carries, perhaps making people unaware that the guy wearing the chic gray suit on the sideline was injured running back Joe Washington. Griffin replaced him yesterday and will have to do so for the next three weeks while Washington is on injured reserve. "I'm relieved and excited about how I did," Griffin said.
Most of all, the Redskins might think of how they will play Indianapolis (2-3) before addressing Dallas (4-1) at RFK Stadium in two weeks. "This is the Redskins' role," Coffey said. "We're always best as an underdog. As good as we were last year at 14-2, we chased Dallas for almost the whole year. We always seem to be better when we have a goal to chase. At the start of the fourth quarter, I heard some fans yelling, 'We want Dallas!' I thought, 'One game at a time. One game at a time.' "