'Skins can't rewrite Philly story

October 10, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Unlike W.C. Fields, the Washington Redskins would rather not be in Philadelphia.

They've played the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium with three different coaches the past three years, but with the same results.

All three games have come down to the final minute and they've lost all three -- last night by a 21-17 margin when Greg Jackson picked off a Heath Shuler pass at the 3-yard line with 40 seconds left.

The consolation this time was that the Redskins weren't supposed to be in this game.

With Shuler starting his second game and with running back Reggie Brooks sitting out with a pulled rib-cage muscle, the Redskins -- drilled by the Dallas Cowboys, 34-7, last week -- were heavy underdogs against an Eagles team that thrashed the San Francisco 49ers, 40-8, last week.

But with Shuler showing a glimpse of his potential by throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Tydus Winans, the Redskins actually led 17-14 after three quarters before the Eagles put together an 80-yard touchdown drive to win the game and boost their mark to 4-1.

The Redskins, now 1-5, had a chance to pull it out before they finally lost again in the final minute.

In 1992 with Joe Gibbs at the helm, they lost here, 17-13, when Eric Allen knocked away a Mark Rypien pass to Gary Clark in the end zone on the final play.

Last year, with Richie Petitbon as head coach, they lost here, 34-31, on a 10-yard Randall Cunningham touchdown pass with four seconds left. In the second game at RFK Stadium, they lost, 17-14, on a Bubby Brister 2-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds remaining.

Twelve of the past 14 games between these teams have been decided by seven points or fewer, and the Eagles also won in the final minute, 17-14, here in 1991, but the Super Bowl-bound Redskins already had clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs and didn't play their regulars all the way.

This time, under coach Norv Turner, the Redskins took over on their 8 with 1:48 left and mounted their last drive.

Shuler passed 22 yards to Henry Ellard, scrambled for 10 and passed 18 yards to Desmond Howard as the Redskins moved the ball to the Philadelphia 38 with a minute left.

Allen was then called for a bump, moving the ball to the 33 with 55 seconds left.

After Shuler threw two incomplete passes, he made a rookie mistake. He threw into double coverage down the left sideline and Jackson ran over to pick it off on the Eagles' 3.

"We thought we had two chances at the end zone and that was one of them. It was a route for Desmond. He faded as he should have and the guy [Jackson] just made a great defensive play on it," Shuler said.

Turner said: "As much as it hurts to lose, I've proud of the way our guys competed. The defense did a heck of a job and Heath made progress. We need to eliminate letting the other team make a big play."

The Eagles dominated much of the game. They had an edge in first downs, 26-12, and yardage, 431-226, and the Redskins managed three first downs -- one on a penalty -- in their first five possessions.

They wasted Brian Mitchell's 68-yard return with the opening kickoff, and later a 47-yard pass interference penalty on Mark McMillian that gave the Redskins a first down on the Eagles' 11 in the second quarter.

On the next play, Ellard fumbled an end-around and Mike Flores recovered on the 38.

"I think he took his eyes off the ball. We both didn't execute," Shuler said.

Ellard agreed he took his eyes off it because he thought he had a touchdown. "I was a little anxious," he said.

Turner said he didn't think the call was a gamble. "I thought it was going to be a touchdown," he said. "I thought it was worth a shot."

Even though the Redskins were struggling on offense, the defense kept them in the game and they were trailing only 7-0 when they took over on their 20 with a minute left in the first half.

Shuler, who was 2-for-8 for 20 yards in his first five possessions, suddenly completed three of four for 76 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Winans.

Chip Lohmiller, whose job may be in jeopardy, missed the extra-point attempt, but the Redskins had narrowed the deficit to 7-6 at halftime.

Shuler said: "I was trying to make a big play. Tydus made a great catch. We got momentum and I think that settled me down."

In the third quarter, Shuler threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Winans down the right sideline and a two-point conversion to Howard, who made a diving catch.

The Eagles tied it 14-14, but Frank Wycheck's 43-yard kickoff return set up a 47-yard field goal by Lohmiller that put the Redskins ahead 17-14.

But the Eagles then drove 80 yards in 11 plays for the touchdown that won the game. Charlie Garner, who ran for 122 yards in 28 carries, got several key gains before he left with sore ribs, but Herschel Walker's 22-yard jaunt with a Cunningham pass on a third-and-10 play at the Washington 45 was the play that made the difference.

The Eagles then had to stop the Redskins' last drive as Cunningham got his 18th straight regular-season win at home.

Even though it wasn't a vintage Eagles performance, Philadelphia coach Rich Kotite said, "There's no such thing as a bad win."

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