It sounded to an untrained ear like almost constant booing. Each time H-back Chris Cooley caught a pass -- and it happened often -- thousands of Redskins fans shouted: Coooooooley.
It's a noise the Eagles might not soon forget.
Cooley and Mike Sellers combined for 10 catches, 111 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown, leading an H-back heavy attack that keyed the Redskins' 17-10 win over NFC East rival Philadelphia. With Washington's wide receivers often covered, quarterback Mark Brunell relied on a variety of dump-offs and medium patterns to Cooley and Sellers.
Sellers caught three passes and took his second career carry for a crucial touchdown; Cooley got open more than any other Redskin and had seven catches for 85 yards. The game, players said, provided a perfect lesson in the potential of the H-back position. As a result, a boo-like soundtrack played in the background for much of the game.
"We knew we needed to get a lot of people involved on offense, and that's what we did," Cooley said. "H-backs do a lot in this offense. It's a big job. When you're playing that position, you get a lot of chances."
Cooley's chances came early and often, and he took advantage of almost all of them. He had been one of Brunell's favorite targets all season, and he came into the game as Washington's second-leading receiver with 318 yards.
Rarely had Cooley set a tone for a game like he did yesterday, when he practically willed a struggling Redskins offense down the field for its first scoring drive.
With Philadelphia's defense concentrating on Washington's wide receivers, Cooley appeared open consistently. In an empty-backfield set, Cooley enjoyed single coverage three times on the Redskins' first scoring drive. He caught a pass up the middle for 18 yards, caught a 14-yard floater near the opposing sideline, and swung outside for a two-yard catch. Propelled by those three plays, the Redskins scored with a John Hall field goal less than three minutes into the second quarter.
"Chris has consistently made just play after play for us," Brunell said. "He gets the ball, and he's able to do something with it, which is big. Very rarely does the first guy who meets him make a tackle. He's keeping drives alive for us."
Said Cooley: "They couldn't cover everybody, and I was definitely getting open. Mark just kept getting me the ball."
On the rare occasion Cooley stopped tormenting the Philadelphia defense, Sellers took over. Together, the duo fulfilled the definition of the H-back position: block like a tight end, catch like a receiver and run, when called on, like a powerful fullback.
It's a position so diverse, so complicated, that Sellers felt last season like he might never learn it. During a frustrating 2004, Sellers played rarely and caught one pass. "This position is super complicated," Sellers said, "and I just didn't get it."
Yesterday, he clearly understood. On one drive in the fourth quarter, Sellers tripled his reception total from last season and helped the Redskins, then leading 17-10, run time off the clock. He made a 13-yard catch on a crucial third down, with 10 of those yards coming on a bulldozing post-catch run. On the next play, Sellers found an open spot in the middle of the field and hauled in an eight-yard catch.
Sellers felt most excited about a shorter play that occurred two quarters earlier. The 280-pound back had long begged the Redskins for one goal line carry, and with less than five minutes left before halftime, they finally honored his request. Sellers took a handoff from Brunell and dove into the end zone, fumbling the ball just after he crossed the plane.
"It wasn't pretty, but they finally gave it to me," Sellers said. "I've been lobbying for a long time to get that ball.
"When you're playing H-back, you get to play so many roles. That's why I wanted my chance to run with it. With this position, there's nothing you can't do. I'm getting my opportunities now, and they're seeing what I'm capable of."