Eagles deny every last wish of Redskins

December 23, 1991|By Warner Hessler | Warner Hessler,Newport News Daily Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins strolled into Veterans Stadium yesterday with a bag full of goodies collected during a dream of a regular season. But the grumpy Philadelphia Eagles emptied the Redskins' bag, stealing everything except their free pass into the NFL playoffs.

Roger Ruzek kicked a 38-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 24-22 victory in a game during which Philadelphia, eliminated from the playoffs a week ago, refused to go through the motions.

The Redskins left the Vet with a 14-2 record, the best in the NFL, but little else. Consider:

* A victory would have given Washington a team-record 15-1 mark, a record matched by only two other teams in NFL history.

* In 15 games, the Redskins allowed six quarterback sacks, one fewer than the NFL record set by Miami in 1988. The Eagles sacked Mark Rypien once and reserve Jeff Rutledge twice to ruin their record attempt.

* The Redskins wanted to go into the playoffs under a head of steam, with a victory and a four-game winning streak. Now they have two weeks to dwell on the defeat before opening the playoffs on Jan. 4 or 5.

* The Redskins wanted to get their lethargic running game untracked but finished with 87 yards, including just 6 in the second half.

* The Redskins wanted to look sharp in the finale, but they took 11 penalties, dropped five passes and had a punt blocked.

* Rypien, who bent a fingernail and jammed a finger on his passing hand last Sunday, wanted to convince the coaches and himself that he suffered no lingering effects. But he completed just 10 of 27 passes, and had one intercepted and returned for a touchdown, before going to the bench with 6:59 left in the third quarter.

"We can't play like that and make those mistakes in the playoffs," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.

Rypien, in a rare moment of anger, was more to the point. "I did not play worth a damn, and I'm not taking a damn thing that is good out of this game," he said. "It's a loss, and we're not used to losing games.

"Offensively, we stunk. Maybe it was because I didn't play well, or maybe we were intimidated. Who knows?"

The Eagles' intimidating defense, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in the league in run, pass and total defense, played with the intensity of a team determined to finish the season that way. The last team to perform such a rare triple was Minnesota in 1975.

"There's a lot of pride involved in finishing the season as the league's top-rated defense, as well as beating a team that's going into the playoffs as the Super Bowl favorite," Philadelphia defensive tackle Bob Golic said.

"They've been anointed the best team in football," Eagles center Dave Alexander said. "They've practically been given the Super Bowl already.

"If they go on and win it, it's nice to say you were one of two teams to beat the champs."

For three quarters, though, it looked like the Eagles' defense might win the battle for pride and defensive records but lose because of an anemic offense. Rypien, who admitted that his right middle finger was still bothering him, threw late and with little zip on a sideline pass for Ricky Sanders midway through the first quarter. Eagles cornerback Otis Smith intercepted it and raced 74 yards for a 7-0 lead.

"My finger didn't hurt," Rypien said, "but it felt like it had arthritis. I wasn't able to get a good grip on the ball, and I had nothing on the passes all day."

But Jeff Kemp, the Eagles' fifth quarterback to see game action this season, sputtered badly and the next 35 minutes belonged to the Redskins.

At the end of the first quarter, Chip Lohmiller kicked the first of his five field goals. Ricky Ervins capped a 62-yard march with a 1-yard run for a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter, and Lohmiller kicked a 47-yard field goal before intermission for a 13-7 advantage.

After Lohmiller added two more field goals in the third quarter, Gibbs, who had been inserting reserves into the lineup as early as the first quarter, replaced Rypien with Rutledge.

"I had made up my mind once I got to the game that I was going to take him out the first opportunity I had," Gibbs said. "I really didn't want him to play more than a half."

The Eagles, who had just 26 total yards in the first half, began to show signs of life offensively in the third quarter, and began visiting the end zone in the fourth. Kemp rolled away from a blitz early in the fourth quarter and passed 2 yards to Keith Jackson for a touchdown, and Smith ran through the Redskins' Andre Collins to block Kelly Goodburn's punt at Washington's 7-yard line on the next series.

"The whole team caught fire after that blocked punt," Kemp said.

Two plays later, receiver Maurice Johnson cut behind safety Danny Copeland and pulled in Kemp's 6-yard touchdown pass for a 21-19 lead with 9:14 to play. Lohmiller missed a 49-yard field goal with 5:21 to go, but made a 35-yarder with 2:34 left for a 22-21 lead. Kemp, however, connected on six of nine passes in a 10-play, 58-yard drive at the end that culminated in a winning 38-yard field goal by Ruzek.

"We're not going anywhere; we'll be home for Christmas," Eagles coach Rich Kotite said, "but we didn't give up. I couldn't feel any better.

"I think everyone in this city is proud of their Eagles because they played hard."

And stole all but one of the packages under the Redskins' tree.

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