PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 12 -- Philadelphia Eagles Coach Buddy Ryan has waited all season for his prized defense to tally some points. He was rewarded in bunches tonight during the 28-14 drubbing of the Washington Redskins.
His defense scored two touchdowns -- a 30-yard interception return by cornerback William Frizzell and a fumble return of 18 yards by end Clyde Simmons.
On Simmons's touchdown, the ball was slammed out of the hand of Redskins quarterback Jeff Rutledge by blitzing free safety Wes Hopkins. Rutledge sprained his thumb on the play and never returned.
Hopkins, the veteran who fights for his job every season, said his eyes lit up when he saw a clear angle at Rutledge from the blind side. "I didn't know that it was going to pop out, but I hit him hard enough," Hopkins said. "I just wanted to get there before he threw it. I came in untouched and it was just a matter of trying to spring and get there before he let it go."
To make matters worse for the Redskins, an interception and 33-yard return by all-pro defensive end Reggie White led directly to another touchdown.
Besides the flurry of turnovers, Ryan's 46 defense shut down the Redskins, who racked up 41 points last week against the Lions. The Eagles had three sacks, several blocked passes, and put constant pressure on Rutledge and backup Stan Humphries, who also left the game after injuring his right knee.
The Redskins were held to 200 yards of total offense and only 13 first downs. They didn't get a rushing first down until the waning moments.
"This is probably one of the best defensive games we've had since I've been here. We played great," said Ryan, in his fifth season. "I think the turnovers really helped. That's the way most teams get beat."
The Eagles were the NFL's runaway leaders last season in turnover differential. But they had struggled this season, stumbling to a 4-4 midseason mark. Going into tonight's game, Philadelphia's defense had forced just 14 turnovers, putting them near the bottom of the NFC.
But they struck on the Redskins' third possession as Frizzell intercepted a Rutledge pass meant for Ricky Sanders and ran untouched into the end zone to give the Eagles the lead. "We just came up with the big plays all night," Frizzell said.
He said he saw Rutledge eyeing Sanders in the left flat and waited. "I was playing him man-to-man and I tried to keep him from going upfield on me. And he threw it outside and I sprung on it. I wasn't aware it was our first defensive touchdown of the year, but it sure came at the right time."
White, the Eagles' self-ordained "Minister of Defense," has had more sacks than any player in the NFL since 1985. But he was overjoyed by his first career interception.
On the Redskins' first possession after Simmons's third-quarter touchdown, White grabbed a pass deflected by middle linebacker Byron Evans. He lumbered to the Washington 9 before he was dragged out of bounds. "I saw the ball coming down and I said to myself, 'Just catch it,' " White said. Told that Ryan had razzed him for being caught from behind by an offensive lineman, White cracked: "Aw, he had the angle on me."
The Eagles defenders liked their all-around performance.
"This was the best effort defensively this year," White said. "We beat them convincingly.
Hopkins said the Eagles came out with the right attitude from the start.
"The guys were real intense tonight," Hopkins said. "I could see it in their eyes. It was all business."
Quarterback Randall Cunningham said the team is starting to come together offensively and defensively.
"The defense is back to where they're capable of playing," said Cunningham, who threw for 132 yards and ran for 42. "They're getting turnovers. They're getting big hits and they're putting people out of the game."
Three plays after White's theft, second-year backfield phenom Heath Sherman caught his second touchdown pass of the game.
Sherman became the first Eagle to rush for consecutive 100-yard games since Wilbert Montgomery did it three straight games in 1981. Sherman's second score gave the Eagles a 28-7 third-quarter lead. From there, they cruised to their third straight victory.
1990.........Philadelphia 28, Washington 14
1989.........N.Y. Giants, 27, Washington 24
.............Denver 14, Washington 10
1988.........N.Y. Giants 27, Washington 20
.............San Francisco 37, Washington 21
1987.........L.A. Rams 30, Washington 26