'Skins want to change bye history

The Baltimore Sun

History, recent or otherwise, won't be on the Washington Redskins' side when they play the Philadelphia Eagles this afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

It all comes down to what has happened this season when the Redskins have met teams after their bye week and what the Eagles have done under coach Andy Reid after a bye week.

The Redskins haven't won, losing to the New York Giants (19-3) and Indianapolis Colts (36-22) last month. The Eagles haven't lost, going 7-0 under Reid after a week off.

"It's just a great challenge," said Redskins safety and former Eagle Troy Vincent. "The greater the opportunity, the greater the challenge."

Asked about the team's unblemished record under Reid after a bye, veteran Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said: "Every year is a new year. So many guys who are new, they don't know what happened last year or the year before. This is an important game for us. We need to do what we need to do to get on a roll here."

It will be a matchup of two inconsistent and fairly desperate teams.

Coming off a rousing 22-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday at FedEx Field, Washington (3-5, 1-2 NFC East) needs to win again to keep its season meaningful, while Philadelphia (4-4, 1-1) is hoping to end a three-game losing streak.

"Anytime you play an emotional game like that it concerns you if you can get back and play at a high level," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "Obviously, they have had a week off, and Philly it is an extremely tough place to play. Everyone knows that we are going into a tough situation."

The Redskins have not played well in similar situations this season. They had their worst offensive performance against the Giants, and were in the game at Indianapolis until right before halftime, then saw the Colts pull away with 26 straight points.

But having broken a three-game losing streak last week, the Redskins should come out with a different feeling today than they had against the Cowboys.

"We've got a little more confidence, maybe a little swagger about us after that win against Dallas, and that helps; it's huge in this business," Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell said. "Hopefully, we can carry some of that into this game with Philly because obviously they're very tough."

Not lately. After winning four of their first five games and looking like they were going to run away with the NFC East, Philadelphia lost its next two games, on the road, on last-second field goals - to the New Orleans Saints on a 31-yarder by John Carney and to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on an incredible 62-yarder by Matt Bryant.

The Eagles then dropped a 13-6 decision to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home two weeks ago.

"The mood of the team is to do what needs to be done to get us back on the winning side of things," Dawkins said. "That is doing some of the little things, whether it is a penalty, offsides or a dropped ball. Those are the things that will cause us to lose close games. If we don't do those things the outcome will be different."

Said Reid: "In the National Football League you have to get over it. You have to do that. You work a little harder, focus a little more and make sure you go out and play with emotion. That is how you go about that."

If there is an individual story line going into today's game, it's the return of Vincent to Philadelphia. Though he hasn't played there in a couple of years, Washington's newest hero (after blocking Mike Vanderjagt's field-goal attempt to set up the game-winner by Nick Novak) played eight of his first 14 years there, going to the Pro Bowl in five straight seasons (1999 to 2003).

Vincent is trying to play down the homecoming.

"It's another game to me. I just want to get a win," he said last week at Redskins Park. "Whether we're playing in this parking lot, their parking lot, at Lincoln Financial. Obviously, it's going to be the talk about me coming back home, me blocking a field goal. I don't want that to be a distraction. We have to get to that fourth victory."


Keys to the Game

Where is T.J. Duckett?

There has been much speculation at Redskins Park that T.J. Duckett, who was acquired during training camp but has played little, will be the team's short-yardage back, especially near the end zone. It might not thrill Clinton Portis, but the Dallas Cowboys stopped Portis cold near the goal line last week.

Picking Up The Blitz

Given the Eagles' propensity to blitz, and the lack of mobility of Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, Washington's offensive line and other assorted pass blockers had better be ready. If not, it could be a long - or short - afternoon for the already banged-up Brunell.

Next up: R. Brown

The Redskins are done with Terrell Owens for this season - the thank-you card from Troy Vincent is in the mail, T.O., for dropping that certain touchdown pass last week. Now they must contend with Reggie Brown, who would love to celebrate his new five-year contract with a couple of touchdowns.

[Don Markus]

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