PHILADELPHIA -- This time, the pocket Jay Schroeder stepped into was formed by reporters. This time, in the Redskins' dressing room, his back really was almost pressed against a wall. This time, he threw some hard stuff directly at himself -- and completed it.

Schroeder watchers, which include Redskins teammates, have been curious how he would handle the slump every quarterback inevitably endures. Sitting down during a news conference that lasted no longer than some deep pass patterns, he proved a stand-up guy.

He began by calling his performance in the 31-27 loss to the Eagles "terrible" and ended by saying he had "let 44 other guys down." That being enough self-flagellation, Schroeder got up to leave -- and accidently knocked over his chair.

"Crazy game, isn't it?" Jeff Bostic had said moments earlier. "Just when you think you've got all the answers . . . ." Nothing more needed to be said.

The Redskins had the Eagles beaten twice, and let them escape; they had Randall Cunningham close enough to check for cavities, but let him wiggle free to throw the winning touchdown pass with 66 seconds left.

That heave to Gregg Garrity was over Tim Morrison. But earlier, Cunningham had thrown two touchdown passes over another Redskin in a down cycle, Darrell Green, who was closest to the scene on some damaging receptions in Washington's other loss this season.

Cornerbacks and quarterbacks occupy the same narrow ledge each week. Theirs are among the last links of success -- and the first focal points of blame.

Still, quarterbacks are the ones who get scrutinized in Washington, and much more closely than, say, nominees to the Supreme Court. As Schroeder knows as well as the most casual fan, his second complete season as a pro has not gone well.

Losing what amounted to a small fortune by many standards because of the month-long strike is only Schroeder's third-worst concern. Second would be the shoulder injury he suffered early in the season opener, also against the Eagles.

Schroeder's major concern is a usually accurate arm gone erratic. Until Sunday's 16-for-46 daymare, the awfulest performance of his young NFL life had been a 15-for-38 effort against the Jets two weeks ago.

In between, Schroeder threw beautifully. He was 11 for 18 against the Bills, but a stunning show by the runners made throwing much simpler. Sunday, the Redskins figured the route to victory would be transcontinental.

"You can't be real patient," said assistant head coach/offense, Joe Bugel. "You've got to go downfield with the ball, pick your spots to run. They put eight and nine guys on the line.

"We ran pretty decent {129 yards on 28 carries}; good players have got to make big plays."

That was coachspeak for Schroeder overthrowing receivers, in his own estimation "seven or eight times." The line did its job; the receivers got open; the ball bounced harmlessly on the ersatz turf.

Surprisingly, Schroeder misconnected lots of times on his specialty -- long passes. Redskins faithful have grown accustomed to his problems with short passes -- and three should have been intercepted but were not.

The blockers were not totally blameless. Several times Schroeder was flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw on the run.

"They brought everybody," said guard R.C. Thielemann, "and from positions we weren't expecting. It's not something we haven't seen; it is something we as a line weren't ready for."

Ironically, the offense was at its big-play best under the most terrible circumstances. Regular center Russ Grimm had been half-carried off the field; Bostic lasted one snap, which was fumbled, and switched positions with left guard Raleigh McKenzie.

With slightly more than four minutes left, Schroeder started doing what he mostly always does: bringing the team from behind. He had created most of the mess; he would clean it up.

Seventy-four yards away, Schroeder pitched the Redskins into the Philadelphia end zone with three straight passes. The final one, a 47-yarder to Gary Clark, was the sort he had been missing routinely.

There were 149 seconds remaining when Clark scored. Even the missed extra point did not seem monumental, for the defense surely would keep Cunningham from mustering more than the field goal necessary for overtime.

Schroeder might even have permitted himself a sigh of relief on the sideline. Just in time, he had regained his touch.

When Garrity made his end-zone catch, a pair of binoculars quickly turned toward Schroeder. He seemed riveted in disbelief. These Eagles would not quit.

Soon, Schroeder walked to the bench and retrieved his helmet. Another comeback would be needed. His first pass was incomplete, because the ball and an Eagle seemed to hit Kelvin Bryant at the same moment.

The next pass also was to Bryant, who caught it and then fumbled to the Eagles.

Slowly, Schroeder walked to the bench, behind which was a large sign that read: "Buddy-Ball Has Arrived."


"Why they didn't bring {reserve quarterback} Doug {Williams} in the game {was a surprise}," Cunningham said. "How many points did he put up against us the first game?"


"If they'd brought him in, it would have been a different story," Cunningham said, adding that he felt the Eagles still would have won.

Joe Gibbs very likely has the slowest hook of any NFL coach; he also has the best record, in part by being pragmatic with underproductive positions.

In mountainous adversity, Schroeder reacted well. He hopped forward and decided to load responsiblilty for everybody on his shoulders.

"What other choice did he have?" a teammate said.

The goofy reality of this season is that the Redskins actually list a pair of unbeaten quarterbacks, not Schroeder or Williams, but Ed Rubbert and Tony Robinson. Neither is in a position to get a warm-up call from the Redskins' pitching coach, Jerry Rhome.

As always, recovery can be as quick as the next pass of the next game. For Schroeder, being fed to the 2-6 Lions in RFK Stadium might not be all that bad.