PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins lost everything but their quarterback yesterday.
They lost a game, their bid for a league sack record, their attempt to set a team record for most victories in a season and their chance to lead the league in fewest points allowed.
They lost all that in a 24-22 setback at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles before 58,988 roaring fans at Veterans Stadium who didn't seem to realize that this regular-season finale was supposed to be meaningless for both teams.
The only consolation for the Redskins was that they escaped with quarterback Mark Rypien healthy.
"I kind of made up my mind once I got to the game that I was going to take him out the first opportunity [I had]. I really didn't want him to play much more than a half," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.
That was a change in policy by Gibbs, who has spent the past two weeks defending his decision to stick with Rypien in meaningless games even though he almost lost his starting quarterback with a finger injury in the fourth quarter last Sunday against the New York Giants.
Gibbs finally decided it was best to preserve Rypien, especially against the Eagles, a team that accomplished a defensive triple for the first time since the Minnesota Vikings in 1975. They led the league in fewest yards allowed, fewest rushing yards allowed and fewest passing yards allowed.
Gibbs had no second thoughts when on Rutledge's third play, Seth Joyner gave him a shot to the head that knocked him to the ground and wrecked his face mask.
Rypien even came back on to the field before the Redskins called timeout to give Rutledge a chance to collect his wits. Rutledge then borrowed Rypien's helmet and finished the game.
Rypien should now be fit for the Redskins' first playoff game at RFK Stadium the weekend of Jan. 4-5.
The Redskins will play the Atlanta Falcons (if they upset the New Orleans Saints) or the winner of the Dallas Cowboys' game against either the Detroit Lions or the Chicago Bears (if the Falcons lose).
Gibbs let Rypien start the third quarter, but when he was the victim of a blind-side sack by William Thomas in his first series with 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter, Gibbs decided he had seen enough.
After the Redskins punted and Monte Coleman recovered a Keith Jackson fumble with 6:59 left in the quarter, Gibbs sent in Rutledge.
The Redskins were leading, 13-7, when Rypien left, boosted their lead to 19-7, fell behind 21-19, took the lead 22-21 on Chip Lohmiller's fifth field goal (a 35-yarder with 2:34 left in the game), and finally lost it on Roger Ruzek's 38-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining.
The Eagles, who were knocked out of the playoffs last week when they lost to Dallas, were up for the game while the Redskins suffered a blocked punt and dropped half a dozen passes.
"We as a team offensively stunk," Rypien said. "It might have been because I wasn't playing very well."
He started out 1-for-6 and Otis Smith intercepted his seventh pass and ran it back 74 yards for an Eagles touchdown.
Although Rypien said the middle finger he injured last Sunday wasn't hurting, he said he wasn't getting a good grip on the ball.
"I didn't feel as comfortable as I have been. I didn't have much on the ball. I don't feel I threw the ball very well," said Rypien, who even seemed to wonder if Gibbs had pulled him because he wasn't playing well.
Rypien completed 10 of 27 passes for 130 yards.
By the time it was over, the Eagles had sacked Rutledge twice, boosting the total the Redskins allowed to nine for the year. The record of seven was set by the Miami Dolphins in 1988.
Jim Hanifan, the offensive line coach, told the linemen not to worry about it. He said he told them on the sidelines, "I'm more concerned about a [Super Bowl] ring."
The Redskins finished with a 14-2 mark, tying the club mark they set in 1983, but they failed to win 15 games in a season for the first time. Only two clubs (the San Francisco 49ers in 1984 and Chicago Bears in 1985) have gone 15-1 since the 16-schedule was inaugurated in 1978.
By giving up 24 points, they wound up giving up 224 for the season, allowing New Orleans to finish first by giving up 211.
If it was any consolation, Lohmiller's 16 points gave him 149 for the season, enabling him to outscore the Indianapolis Colts, who HTC scored 143. It was the first time in 46 years that a player (Steve Van Buren of the Eagles had 110 in 1945 to the Chicago Cardinals' 98 and the Pittsburgh Steelers' 79) has outscored a team.
Philadelphia's Jeff Kemp, who completed two of 12 passes in the first half and misfired on 12 straight at one point, rallied to throw two touchdown passes in the second half.
Coach Rich Kotite said: "I just said, 'Hang in there, don't try to be superman. We'll get things resolved.' He did and he played a heckuva game."
Even though the Eagles missed the playoffs, Kotite was pleased that the team won 10 games with five quarterbacks.