PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins, whose long line of capable quarterbacks never seems to run out, could have pleaded poverty last night.
Playing against an uncompromising Philadelphia Eagles defense, the Redskins lost two quarterbacks to injury and had to finish a devastating 28-14 loss with rookie special teamer Brian Mitchell at the offensive controls.
As fate would have it on a night of bizarre, almost eerie plays, Mitchell produced the team's only legitimate offensive drive. The former Southwest Louisiana quarterback capped it with a 1-yard touchdown.
It was much too little and far too late for the Redskins, who slipped into a second-place tie in the NFC East with the Eagles at 5-4.
Far worse than the loss, however, was the physical state of the now-decimated Redskins. When prime time TV finally nodded off, the body count totaled five sprained appendages and one concussion.
Checking into the infirmary were kick returner Walter Stanley, middle linebacker Greg Manusky and quarterback Stan Humphries with knee injuries, running back Gerald Riggs with a sprained left arch, quarterback Jeff Rutledge with a sprained -- or possibly broken -- right thumb, and kick returner Joe Howard with the concussion.
Humphries was on cruches this morning, but said he "hopes" he won"t be out for more than two weeks. Howard stayed overnight in a Philadelphia hospital for observation but was released this morning.
Humphries knee was sprained when Reggie White tackled him in the fourth quarter. That came two series after Rutledge, last week's Redskins' hero, was knocked out of the game on a blindside sack by safety Wes Hopkins.
The guessing game of who starts next week against New Orleans began immediately. Coach Joe Gibbs surmised it might be Mark Rypien if Rutledge is unable to play. Rypien missed the last seven weeks with a knee injury suffered against Dallas in Week 3.
"I think we might have some serious problems ahead of us," Gibbs said, bracing for games against the Saints and Cowboys that come four days apart.
Journeyman Gary Hogeboom, who was signed in the aftermath of the Rypien injury, is yet another possibility.
For Rutledge, the trip from the Redskins' penthouse to the Redskins' pine was swift and humbling. Eight days after he threw for 363 yards in little more than a half against Detroit, the 12-year veteran connected on just six of 19 passes for 62 yards against a blitzing Eagles defense.
"They looked at films of Detroit and saw that the Lions stayed back and played zone the whole game," Rutledge said. "They [the Eagles] came after us. They were physical. You have to give them credit."
It's not like the Redskins haven't seen this before. Usually they greet pressure defense with the flick of a wrist -- and six points.
"We've always liked people to blitz us," said center Jeff Bostic. "We just weren't able to sustain our blocks for the quarterback to have enough time to throw the ball.
"They didn't blitz that much the last time we played [a 13-7 Redskin win Oct. 21]. They were more passive then."
On a cold, blustery evening, the Eagles' defense scored twice and set up two more touchdowns. Philadelphia's longest scoring drive of the night was a 33-yard march after the defense pinned Washington back on its 2.
Cornerback William Frizzell intercepted Rutledge in the first quarter and went 30 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Pressure? Defensive tackle Bob Golic crunched Rutledge in mid-follow through.
Rutledge served up a 7-7 halftime tie after Eagles punter Jeff Feagles panicked under pressure and was called for intentionally grounding. That set the Redskins up at the Eagles' 12. Two plays later, Rutledge found Don Warren for an 8-yard score.
What happened in the third quarter was reminiscent of 1989, when the Eagles' defense was the most voracious in the NFL. The Eagles scored two touchdowns within 70 seconds, and three in the last 3:51 of the period, to break the game open.
The assault started calmly enough with the 33-yard drive. Heath Sherman, who rushed for a career-high 124 yards, scored a touchdown on a 9-yard halfback pass from Keith Byars.
Little more than a minute later, Hopkins drilled Rutledge in the back and jarred the ball loose. Defensive end Clyde Simmons scooped it up on a bounce and rumbled 18 yards for a 21-7 lead.
The Redskins' next offensive series ended when a third-down pass by Humphries was deflected by linebacker Byron Evans and caught by White. It was White's first NFL interception, and 33 yards later the Eagles were parked on the Redskins' 9.
This time quarterback Randall Cunningham (11-for-20, 132 yards) used play-action to get Sherman open for a 3-yard scoring catch.
Nobody appreciated the Eagles' defense more than Cunningham.
"I think the defense is back to where they can play, getting the turnovers, the great hits, putting people out of the game," he said.