LANDOVER, Md.—— Eliminated from postseason contention before their game ended Sunday, the Washington Redskins had bigger concerns late in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With speculation of Coach Jim Zorn's job security swirling because of the their long slide after an impressive start, the Redskins were struggling to hold off the Eagles and avoid another fourth-quarter letdown. When cornerback Fred Smoot and safety LaRon Landry tackled Eagles wide receiver Reggie Brown just short of the goal line as time expired, the Redskins thought they had finally won again.
Television replays confirmed Brown was held out of the end zone after the Eagles challenged the ruling, and the Redskins could exhale after a 10-3 victory in front of what appeared to be a much smaller crowd than the announced 82,412.
"No doubt about it," Landry said. "I knew he wasn't in. No worries."
Although the most difficult week in Washington's once-promising season concluded with the team officially out of the playoffs, the Redskins accomplished something important in ending a losing streak at three games and finishing 4-4 on their home field, many players said. The Redskins stuck together and continued to follow their embattled coach after an embarrassing loss to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals in their last game, and Zorn said he never doubted they would.
"Losing like we have in the past several weeks has been really frustrating, and it just continues to build," said Zorn, who was embraced by coaches and players on the field after an official announced the ruling on the final play would stand. "It built everywhere. Last week was a real downer.
"You can't describe the emotion of toughing it out and actually coming through with a win. But to stop 'em in the end and come out with a win, it was kind of all welled up, and the emotion finally came out. Everybody really saw that we can do it. And we did stick together. And we just found a way. We found a way to win. It was exciting."
Albeit not aesthetically pleasing in terms of offense. Washington (8-7) has been among the league's least productive offenses this season as Zorn, the team's play-caller, is only in the beginning stages of installing his version of the West Coast offense. The Redskins averaged only 16.5 points in their first 14 games, ranking 29th in the league, and 11 points during their 1-5 slide entering Sunday's game.
The Eagles outgained the Redskins in total yards, 275 to 249. Quarterback Jason Campbell had fewer than 170 yards passing (144) for the second week in a row and his third-lowest passer rating of the season at 65.7, and running back Clinton Portis' low average of 3.2 yards per rush was his highest mark in the last four games.
Washington's defense, however, was up to the challenge against Philadelphia (8-6-1), which had won three in a row and remains in the mix for an NFC wild-card berth despite losing both games to its NFC East rival this season. Oft-injured defensive end Jason Taylor had, by far, his best game since joining Washington in a trade on the first day of training camp, getting two sacks and a forcing a fumble.
With Philadelphia needing three yards on third down at its 37-yard line early in the third quarter, Taylor sacked quarterback Donovan McNabb for a 7-yard loss. McNabb lost the ball, and middle linebacker London Fletcher recovered the ball and returned it for a 12-yard gain.
Five plays later, Portis scored on a 1-yard run to help the Redskins take a 10-0 lead with 8 minutes 46 seconds to play in the third quarter. Struggling place-kicker Shaun Suisham's 33-yard field goal provided the only points in the first half.
The touchdown was Portis' first since a 14-11 victory over Cleveland on Oct. 19 — a span of seven games.
After the touchdown, many Redskins players playfully pushed Zorn on the sideline as they celebrated the touchdown.
"It was awesome to see him play like that and making plays," Fletcher said of Taylor. With Atlanta's victory over Minnesota, the Redskins, all but eliminated from contention for a playoff spot by the loss at Cincinnati, were mathematically finished at 7:11 p.m.
McNabb spiked the ball at the Washington 19 to stop the clock and set up the final play.
"It was 12 seconds, they had no timeouts, they had to go to the end zone," Zorn said. "I was thinking maybe they would take at least two or three shots.
"He threw a nice ball in there. LaRon Landry did a nice job of keeping him out. I thought the game was over because I saw it at about three yards short. Then when they wanted to review it, LaRon came by me and said, 'No way. I hit the crud out of him.' He didn't really say crud."
The Redskins finish the season Sunday at San Francisco with Zorn ensured of no worse than a .500 record.
REDSKINS 10, EAGLES 3
|Total Net Yards||275||249|
|Time of Possession||26:46||33:14|
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Philadelphia, Westbrook 12-45, McNabb 2-8, D.Jackson 1-7, Buckhalter 1-2. Washington, Portis 22-70, J.Campbell 2-28, Betts 7-23, Cartwright 1-1.
PASSING—Philadelphia, McNabb 26-46-0-230. Washington, J.Campbell 18-33-0-144.
RECEIVING—Philadelphia, L. Smith 7-49, Westbrook 6-71, R. Brown 4-47, Buckhalter 2-18, Avant 2-16, D. Jackson 2-14, Celek 1-8, Lewis 1-5, Klecko 1-2. Washington, Betts 5-43, Moss 5-28, Cooley 4-28, D. Thomas 1-17, Portis 1-11, Randle El 1-11, Davis 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOAL—Washington, Suisham 54 (SH).