Redskins 31, Eagles 20
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Going back to the basics put Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins back in the playoffs.
Washington (10-6) clinched the NFL’s final playoff spot and its first postseason berth since 1999 with its fifth straight win. The victory also eliminated Dallas from contention.
“Looking back to 5-6, we talked at that time that if we lost another game we’d be out,” Gibbs said. “Trying to win five straight is a tough deal, but our guys seemed to understand what it would take. We went back to the basics.”
The Redskins play Tampa Bay (11-5) in an NFC wild-card game next Saturday in their first playoff game since losing 14-13 to the Buccaneers in a second-round matchup six years ago.
Just as it did against the Eagles, Washington relied heavily on its running game behind Portis and a strong defense to turn things around after losing three straight to fall to 5-6.
“The basics start with playing smart football, not turning it over and also running the football and playing solid defense,” quarterback Mark Brunell said. “That’s how you win. We’ve been doing those things. The first part of the year we weren’t.”
“We’ll go back through and look at all of it,” coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve got to look at ourselves first, if we’re putting guys in the right position to make plays and did they make the plays.”
McMahon, who struggled in his six starts for the injured Donovan McNabb, made a crucial mistake in the fourth quarter. His poorly thrown pass was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Lemar Marshall, putting the ball at the Eagles 22.
On the next play, Portis completely spun around to elude a tackle in the backfield, cut to the left and sprinted down the sideline into the end zone to give the Redskins a 24-20 lead.
“That play was designed to lose two yards,” Portis said. “I spun around a guy and it was clear from there.”
Washington had just one winning season under brash owner Dan Snyder, whose spending sprees on big names like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Steve Spurrier proved futile.
But it took just two seasons for Gibbs to get the Redskins back to the winning ways they enjoyed when he was the coach in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Gibbs led the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles during his first stint in Washington from 1981-92. His first season back after a 12-year retirement was a flop, with the Redskins going 6-10 last year. However, Gibbs made the necessary adjustments after hearing critics say the game had passed by him.
“I was starting all over,” Gibbs said. “It’s a tough road up here and last year, for whatever reason, I probably deserved it (the criticism).”
For the depleted Eagles, it was a fitting end to a miserable season. With McNabb and several other key starters sidelined by injuries and Terrell Owens banished from the team, Philadelphia was undermanned and overmatched.
Only 10 players who started in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to New England in the Super Bowl were on the field against the Redskins. Still, the Eagles made it difficult for Washington.
“If you give me everybody we had, everybody stays healthy, none of the stuff goes on, we’re talking about a different situation right now,” safety Brian Dawkins said.
The Redskins tied it at 17 on Portis’ 2-yard run on the first drive of the third quarter. A 54-yard catch by Santana Moss to the Eagles 6 set up the score.
But the Eagles answered with a 35-yard field goal by David Akers that made it 20-17. The lead held up until McMahon threw another costly pick, his eighth interception this season.
McMahon threw a 33-yard TD pass to Brown to give the Eagles a 10-7 lead in the first quarter. The two hooked up on an 8-yard scoring pass to make it 17-7 in the second quarter. An illegal motion penalty wiped out a TD catch by Brown and the Eagles faced a third-and-21 after McMahon tripped for a 10-yard loss. But a pass interference penalty on Shawn Springs gave the Eagles a first down at the Redskins 11, setting up Brown’s second score.
John Hall kicked a 25-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10 before halftime.
Five plays later, Brunell tossed a 4-yard pass to Sellers, giving the Redskins a 7-3 lead.
The Eagles took a 3-0 lead when Akers’ 49-yard field goal hit the crossbar and went over.
Portis broke Stephen Davis’ franchise rushing record of 1,432 yards set in 2001, and Moss topped Bobby Mitchell’s 42-year-old receiving mark of 1,436 yards.
Portis and Moss became the fourth pair of teammates to set franchise rushing and receiving records in the same season. … The Redskins made the playoffs just once after Gibbs retired following the 1992 season. … Gibbs was 5-0 this December, improving his record to 57-18 after Dec. 1. … Philadelphia was the fifth straight team to miss the playoffs one season after losing the Super Bowl.