Redskins stop hearts, not Eagles Final drive ends 5 yards short, 17-13

December 21, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins lost a game and control of their playoff destiny yesterday, but that's all they lost.

They gained pride and self-respect by putting on a heart-stopping show for the second straight week.

"For the pure fan, who's not for Washington, not for Philadelphia, he'd love it. She'd love it. It was excellent," mused cornerback Darrell Green after the Redskins lost a 17-13 decision to the Philadelphia Eagles that went down to the last play.

The Eagles, playing before 65,841 at Veterans Stadium, didn't clinch an NFC wild-card berth until Eric Allen batted a 5-yard pass away from Gary Clark in the end zone on the final play of the game.

The loss means the Redskins will need help to get into the playoffs next week, but they came so close that the finish was more dramatic than last week's come-from-behind 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on the controversial Troy Aikman pass/fumble play.

This time, the Redskins made enough mistakes to lose. They turned the ball over three times, twice on Rypien passes that were intercepted and once on Brian Mitchell's fumble of a punt. They let Vai Sikahema break loose on a 47-yard punt return that set up a critical field goal and they let Randall Cunningham complete a touchdown pass into double coverage with a pass that was underthrown.

But they battled back, took over on their 10 with 3:35 left after Mitchell bobbled a kickoff return and went 85 yards before they ran out of time on the Eagles' 5.

Three times, Rypien threw into the end zone on the last drive. Twice he just missed Clark and once he threw it away.

On the last play, Clark wasn't the primary receiver, but Allen was keeping an eye on him in zone coverage. Clark thought it was going to be such an easy touchdown catch that he twice threw a towel into a reporter's hands to illustrate the catch he thought he'd make.

"You see how that's going to stick," he said. "Nobody can drop that."

Before he touched it, though, Allen batted it away. "I just went with the percentages," Allen said in looking for Clark. Rypien's hand striking offensive lineman Jim Lachey's helmet also took a little zip off the ball, helping Allen.

The Redskins at least got an A for effort.

"I felt good," Green said. "I felt very proud. It reminds me when I was a kid watching [Roger] Staubach and them [Cowboys] go down the field. My hat is off to Mark Rypien. He didn't get it in there, but it makes me very proud to be a Washington Redskin. There'll be no hanging of heads. I think that's going to pay dividends when it's all said and done."

Redskins safety Brad Edwards said, "I think we've got great character here and tremendous maturity."

Now the task is to overcome the loss and get in the playoffs.

Their fate will ride on the outcome of three games next week. On Saturday, the 9-6 Redskins play host to the Los Angeles Raiders in their regular-season finale.

If they win, they'll get in Sunday if the 9-6 Green Bay Packers lose at Minnesota or the New York Giants lose at 10-5 Philadelphia.

If they lose to the Raiders, they still can make it in if the Packerslose.

You might wonder what the Giants-Eagles game has to do with their fate since the Eagles are in and the Giants are out. It turns out in the NFL's incredibly complicated tie-breaker system, they lose out in a three-team 10-6 tie with the Packers and Eagles, but qualify in a two-way 10-6 tie with the Packers.

So they will end their regular season in front of their television sets next Sunday when they'll be either 10-6 or 9-7. In both 1985 and 1989, the Redskins finished 10-6 and failed to make the playoffs.

As defensive lineman Charles Mann said, "It's disheartening. We've tried to leave it up to other teams [in the past] and we've not been in."

If Green Bay had lost to the Los Angeles Rams yesterday, they would have qualified for the playoffs despite the loss, but the Packers won.

Green said, "When they flashed the Green Bay score up there, we weren't oblivious, but nobody is standing on the sidelines [saying], 'Hey, can you ask a fan the score of the Green Bay game?' You're just playing the game."

There's one other wrinkle in all this. If the Redskins still get in, they'll play their first wild-card playoff game at Minnesota, a team they defeated earlier this year.

If they had won yesterday, their destination would have been New Orleans to face a Saints team they lost to earlier in the season. With Philadelphia's victory, however New Orleans which lost yesterday, is still a win away from securing the homefield advantage.

The Redskins weren't thinking about all that, though. They were simply asking reporters after the game how they could qualify.

"We weren't concentrating on where we're going or where we wouldn't go," Green said.

In a way, the loss was a microcosm of their entire season. They played hard, but not well enough to win.

"This is the kind of way this season has been going. So, it's not a big surprise," Mann said.

Gibbs said, "I think we just made more mistakes than they did."

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