It took three tries, but the Washington Redskins and place kicker Brett Conway finally got it right. Conway saved his job and the Redskins remained alone in first place in the NFC East when he connected on a 27-yard field goal just over 4 1/2 minutes into overtime yesterday to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-17, at FedEx Field.
"I was just trying to make it interesting," a relieved Conway said in the Redskins' locker room.
He could grin about it because he had not cost the Redskins a game they expected to win--and should have won far more easily than they did. Conway, after his second straight shaky performance in a crucial game for the Redskins, said he could not rule out the possibility that he might be cut this week, but team officials said Conway's job is safe.
The Redskins already had made things tougher on themselves than was necessary when Conway walked onto the field with five seconds remaining in regulation for a 28-yard field goal attempt to win the game. They had squandered a 17-3 lead by permitting a pair of 91-yard touchdown drives in the second half. Conway added to the tension when he pushed his potential game-winner wide right as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
"I wasn't nervous," Conway said. "It was a good snap. It was a good hold. I had the wind at my back. I thought I hit it good."
The Redskins won the coin toss in overtime, moved downfield again and lined up for a 20-yard try by Conway on third down. That was nothing more than an extra point, but very little was easy for the Redskins on this day. Quarterback Brad Johnson, who has served as Conway's holder since punter Matt Turk broke his finger last month, dropped the snap from center Dan Turk. But Johnson alertly fell on the ball and Conway had another chance on fourth down, and finally everything went smoothly to end the most ragged of games.
"We thought we might be a little too close, so Brad took a seven-yard loss on the third-down play to get a little better angle," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said jokingly.
It certainly wouldn't have been a laughing matter for Conway, Turner or the Redskins if Conway had missed again. Guard Tre Johnson said if that had happened, Conway simply should have headed to the locker room then and cleaned out his locker. Even after kicking the game-winner, Conway said, it was the miss at the end of regulation that was on his mind.
"I'm much more disappointed about the one I missed," he said. "That's a kick I'm going to make 999 times out of 1,000. . . . I just missed it. The goal posts looked 1,000 yards wide."
Conway mostly has had a good year in his first full season as an NFL place kicker. But he missed three of six field goal attempts against the New York Giants a week ago, a performance Turner described then as "horrible." Turner was kinder to his place kicker yesterday.
"He's pressing a little bit," Turner said. "He struggled a week ago. . . . He's not the first guy that ever missed a kick in that situation. He came back."
Conway said yesterday he was ill during the Giants game, in which he managed to connect on his final field goal attempt to seal the Redskins' 23-13 win.
"Had I not had the week I had last week, this would have been nothing," said Conway, who made a 43-yard field goal in the first quarter against the Eagles when the ball bounced through the goal posts after hitting the left upright. "We'd be laughing about the 28-yarder if I hadn't had the week I had last week."
Conway acknowledged it felt like a long walk off the field following his miss at the end of regulation yesterday.
"I think I timed it at an hour, especially hearing all the boos," he said.
Dan Turk encouraged him on the sideline, telling him he'd get another chance to kick a game-winner in overtime. But when he returned to the field during overtime, he was booed by the crowd again.
"Half of them are drunk and don't know what they're talking about anyway," Conway said of the fans. But he added: "I would have been booing too."
The time between kicks, Conway said, was spent contemplating his future with the team.
"I was thinking about my job the whole time: Am I going to have it next week?" he said. "I knew the only way I was going to have it was if I won the game. . . . I'm a realist. This might be my last game. I know that."
Turner said Conway won't be released. And it was Turner who gave Conway and Brad Johnson a margin for error on the overtime kick, opting to kick on third down so that a bad snap would give the Redskins another try on fourth down.
"I shouldn't have said what I said" about falling on a mishandled snap, Turner said. ". . . I put negative thoughts in Brad's head."
In their season-opening overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Conway never got to kick a would-be game-winning field goal at the end of regulation because Matt Turk mishandled a snap from Dan Turk. The Redskins didn't get a second chance then, and lost. Johnson at least had a fallback yesterday.
"We kicked it on third down just in case something like that happened," Johnson said. ". . . That's the first one I've bobbled all year long, in practice or in games. . . . It was just one of those crazy plays that happen."
Conway conceded following the Giants game it had been difficult to be confident on his final kick of the day following three misses. He made no such admission about his overtime kick yesterday.
"I wasn't nervous at all," he said. "There was never a doubt in my mind. I was very upset and very angry I didn't make the first one."
CAPTION: Redskins' Brett Conway, departing after winning game with 27-yard field goal in overtime, pondered his football future after 4th-quarter miss.