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Garcia and the Eagles now embark on a critical stretch of three straight road games against NFC East opponents, beginning with the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Philadelphia (6-6) is tied with Atlanta, Carolina and the New York Giants in the wild-card race. After playing the Redskins (4-8), the Eagles visit the Giants and Dallas before closing the season at home against the Falcons.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t be in a nip-and-tuck situation, but since we are, we have to be ready,” veteran safety Brian Dawkins said. “Hopefully we got some things out of our system that needed to be out of our system now that this opportunity, or now that crunch time, has come.”
The Eagles’ playoff hopes appeared to fade Nov. 19 when five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament. Philadelphia lost that game to Tennessee and dropped its next game to Indianapolis before rallying to defeat the Panthers 27-24 on Sunday.
Garcia lifted Philadelphia to the badly needed victory, throwing for 312 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles won for just the second time in seven games. Their only other win in that span was a 27-3 victory over Washington on Nov. 12.
“We have not lost focus of what our goal is—to be a playoff team,” Garcia said. “Nobody has been discouraged, nobody has hung their head, it’s a really positive atmosphere in the locker room considering what we’ve gone through over the last two months. This is a great way to come together; I think we can put some things together.”
Garcia tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Donte’ Stallworth, and also connected with him on a 51-yard throw. Stallworth finished with 111 yards on four receptions, giving him his first 100-yard game since catching six balls for 139 yards and an 84-yard touchdown in the first meeting with the Redskins.
Brian Westbrook caught an eight-yard TD pass from Garcia on Sunday, and finished with 68 rushing yards and 56 receiving. He has gained 912 yards in his last six games, including 113 rushing yards on 20 attempts against Washington.
Garcia has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions since replacing McNabb, displaying his form of 2001-03 with San Francisco, when he was named to three straight Pro Bowls.
“I really believe that I can still battle with the best of them,” Garcia said. “I don’t think like I have lost it. I don’t think like I am holding this team back in any sort of way.”
Garcia and the Eagles now face a Redskins club that has improved its pass defense of late.
Washington has given up the ninth-most passing yards (2,652) in the league and is tied with Tampa Bay and Green Bay for the most passing TDs allowed (23). The Redskins, though, have given up the second-fewest passing yards (454) in the NFL over the last three weeks.
The Eagles have won eight of their last 10 against the Redskins, and five of the last six in Washington.
The Redskins suffered a 24-14 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday, their third loss in four games.
Washington led 14-0 in the first quarter, but once again wasted a first-half lead. The Redskins have led at the half in four losses this season, but have been outscored 141-90 after halftime on the year.
“These next four weeks, we’ve got to finish ball games,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “It’s not only got to be Redskins football for a half, we’ve got to finish an entire game.”
Washington ran the ball effectively against the Falcons, with Ladell Betts rushing for a career-high 155 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
Betts has back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time in his career and has been a solid replacement for Clinton Portis, who’s out for the season after having shoulder surgery Tuesday.
Portis was injured in the loss to the Eagles four weeks ago, and Betts came off the bench to run for 83 yards. The Redskins had 146 yards rushing in that game.
Philadelphia has given up 909 rushing yards in the last six weeks, the third-highest total allowed in the league in that span.