Redskins' defense stands up Eagles Maligned unit holds on for 26-21 win, East lead

November 18, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins had just climbed atop the NFC East with a 26-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, and one of the first things Redskins coach Norv Turner said was: "We can't afford to sit around this week and congratulate ourselves. You can't get too high or too low in this league."

But there was no doubting this was a special win for a team that came to Philadelphia on the run from two straight losses and embarrassed by a defense that was ranked last in the NFL.

The Eagles also had beaten Washington eight straight.

Turner showed just how special it was when he presented the game ball to owner Jack Kent Cooke and called to congratulate him back home in Washington.

"Mr. Cooke was really excited," Turner said of the 84-year-old owner who was just released Friday from a hospital after a four-day stay.

Cooke doesn't usually travel with the team except to New York, where he has business interests, so his absence wasn't out of the ordinary.

But it was a game he would have enjoyed.

Turner loved almost everything that went on yesterday at Veterans Stadium as his much-maligned defense made seven huge plays at the end to hold off the Eagles (7-4) and Gus Frerotte was just good enough to lead the offense past Philadelphia, which dropped to 3-3 at home.

"When we talk about coaching, playing, covering or being in the NFL, this is what it is all about," said Turner, whose Redskins improved to 8-3. "Both teams played hard and put on a good show."

The Washington defense stunned much of the crowd of 66,834 in the final 4: 40 of the game when it made two stands to keep the Eagles out of the end zone.

"I was never thinking, 'Oh, no, here we go again,' " said Rich Owens, part of the Washington defense that had been dissected by Boomer Esiason and Arizona for 522 passing yards the previous week. "I just knew we were going to win. I don't know if you can call it karma, but I never thought we were going to lose. We all believed today."

It was Owens who began the unlikely defensive clinic when the Eagles took over the ball on their 17-yard line with 4: 40 left and Washington ahead 23-21.

Owens, a defensive end, stormed through the line to tackle Ricky Watters (87 yards rushing, 78 in receptions) for an 8-yard loss.

Then linebacker Ken Harvey sacked Ty Detmer for a 7-yard loss at the Philadelphia 2-yard line.

On third-and-25, Detmer's pass went off Chris Jones' hands and Tom Hutton punted 49 yards to Brian Mitchell.

Mitchell weaved his way 23 yards through the Eagles and wound up 28 yards from the end zone with 3: 17 remaining.

The return set up Scott Blanton's fourth field goal, from 33 yards, for a 26-21 advantage. But Detmer, Watters, Jones and Irving Fryar weren't finished yet with less than two minutes on the clock and no timeouts left.

They combined for three big pass plays for 52 yards, moving the ball to the Washington 20-yard line with 24 seconds remaining.

That set the stage for a final four-play stand by a Washington secondary that has played so poorly in recent weeks that fans at RFK were calling for defensive coordinator Ron Lynn's resignation.

First Darrell Green helped break up a pass to Fryar, then Detmer couldn't hit Mark Seay on second down, and Scott Turner and Darryl Pounds combined to cover Jones tightly on a third-down incompletion.

So it was down to one last-ditch pass by Detmer to Freddie Solomon, but Tom Carter was there to make sure there were no last-second miracles on a fourth straight pass into the end zone.

No wonder Lynn was conducting his own news conference in the locker room.

"My wife [Cynthia] said she was tired of our name being trashed," said Lynn. "We've been stunning people all year, and I guess we did it again today."

Frerotte threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jamie Asher, who had caught only one scoring pass all season before yesterday.

"I never caught two TDs in one game in college," said Asher, a Louisville alumnus. "I'll probably think about it tomorrow."

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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