Up next: Redskins rise to snap 3-game slide

While Washington's offense was rightly blamed for most of the 1-5 slide that ended with Sunday's 10-3 victory over Philadelphia, the defense was criticized for failing to get off the field in crunch time against Dallas, Baltimore and Cincinnati or stop a New York Giants passing game minus Plaxico Burress.

But the Redskins' defense rose to the occasion against the Eagles.

Philadelphia had averaged 30 points and 395 yards during a three-game winning streak before facing Washington. The Redskins held the Eagles to a field goal and 275 yards at FedEx Field. Ninety of those yards came on the final drive.

"That was some dominating defense," said middle linebacker London Fletcher. "That was a top-five defense right there. We showed up for 60 minutes and played the way we're supposed to play. We had a lot of guys step up and make plays that won't necessarily show up on the stat page. (Coordinator Greg) Blache and his staff called a great game plan based on taking (Eagles star running back Brian) Westbrook out of it."

Westbrook somehow was singled up on defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander on what wound up to be a 47-yard screen pass to set up Philadelphia's only points, but otherwise Washington held him to a pedestrian 69 yards on 17 touches.

But when Westbrook squirmed for five yards on a short pass from Donovan McNabb on fourth-and-4 at the Washington 23 in the final minute and McNabb spiked the ball, the Eagles had at least one shot to force overtime with 12 seconds left.

Cornerback Fred Smoot and safety LaRon Landry stopped Eagles receiver Reggie Brown inches shy of the end zone as time expired.

"It wouldn't be the Redskins if we didn't make it interesting at the end," Fletcher said laughing.

"I knew it was close so I tried to carry (Brown) away from the goal line," said Smoot, who was beaten on the play. "I knew he wasn't in."

So did Landry, who assured coach Jim Zorn of that as referee Jerome Boger checked the replays before confirming the original call and assuring the Redskins will finish at least .500 for a second straight season for the first time since 2000-01.

"It gives a real lift to everybody," Zorn said. "My spirits were lifted because our players didn't give up on the season. It's still not satisfying from the standpoint of ... having that spell in there where we lost so many."

Although defensive tackle Kedric Golston was out with bone spurs in his right ankle, he and Anthony Montgomery have been virtually interchangeable for three years. The rest of the defense was healthy for the first time since Week 3 with strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington back after four weeks on the sidelines with a high ankle sprain and left tackle Cornelius Griffin and strong safety Chris Horton having returned after sitting out the stunning loss the previous Sunday at Cincinnati.

"It was good to have everybody back," said right end Andre Carter, who along with Fletcher, Landry, Smoot, end Demetric Evans, weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh and cornerback Carlos Rogers has played in every game for a defense that has allowed the fourth-least yards and points.

Griffin, Golston, Montgomery, Horton, left end Jason Taylor, Washington, cornerback Shawn Springs and former starting safety Reed Doughty have all missed games with injuries.

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Don't look for coach Jim Zorn to rest such veterans as guards Pete Kendall or Randy Thomas, receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, tight end Chris Cooley, quarterback Jason Campbell, defensive end Jason Taylor or cornerback Shawn Springs in Sunday's finale at San Francisco just because the Redskins were eliminated from the playoff race by virtue of Atlanta's victory at Minnesota this past Sunday.

"I'm not going to experiment that way in the last game when we have a chance to go 9-7," Zorn said. "We can experiment during preseason. We can get these (rookies) a little more ready during the offseason where we can have a better evaluation. We're going to stick with our (regular) group barring injury."

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The victory over Philadelphia prevented Washington from going 0-3 in its home division games for the first time since 2003.

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The Redskins headed to the locker room at FedEx Field for the final time this season with smiles on their faces after holding off the Eagles behind the big play of Smoot and Landry.

But the happiness produced by the victory that ended a three-game losing streak and ensured the Redskins won't have a losing season was dampened by the discovery when they reached the locker room that Atlanta's victory over Minnesota had eliminated them from playoff contention.

"I was holding out hope on us possibly sneaking in there," said 11th-year middle linebacker London Fletcher, whose recovery of a fumble forced by defensive end Jason Taylor set up the game's only touchdown. "I've been in this league long enough where a lot of crazy things happen the last couple weeks of the season. I was looking for Minnesota to help us out ..."

So were defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and guard Pete Kendall.

"We took care of business," said Griffin, a nine-year veteran who had sat out the previous week's ugly loss at Cincinnati with an abdominal strain. "We didn't know about Atlanta until we got in the locker room."

Added 13-year veteran Kendall, "Maybe at some point tonight, we'll put on the (New York Giants-Carolina Panthers) game and watch two teams that are going to go. It was all out there for us (with a 6-2 midseason record) and we couldn't quite get across the line. Making the playoffs would be a better feeling, but it's still a good feeling."

The Redskins also believe that any talk of first-year coach Jim Zorn losing his job should be gone after they swept the Eagles. Washington can finish with a second straight winning season for the first time since 1996-97 by winning its finale at San Francisco.

"We can't go to San Fran and fold it up," said Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis, who scored the game's only touchdown, his first in eight games. "We got to go out and finish our season in a positive note and come into next season feeling good about ourselves."

They feel good about showing how they felt about Zorn.

"We showed how we felt about coach Zorn with the way we came out and played today, the way we fought, the way we approached this game," Fletcher said.

"If the guys were going to quit on a coach, this was the opportunity to do it," Kendall said. "We weren't going to do that."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He (Jim Zorn) needed this win. He's been through a lot, especially for this being his rookie year as a head coach. He's been through the ups and down. We had a lot of early success and then we had some late troubles. Getting this win is probably kind of refreshing for him." -- CB Fred Smoot, on rookie coach Jim Zorn.

TRENDING: The Redskins victory at FedEx Field ended a four-game winning streak by the road team in the NFC East rivalry.

PLAYER NOTES

--- DT Lorenzo Alexander injured his right hamstring against the Eagles and is doubtful for Sunday's game at the 49ers.

--- DE Jason Taylor bruised ribs against the Eagles but is expected to play against the 49ers.

--- RB Clinton Portis added an ankle injury against the Eagles to his list of aching body parts but is expected to start against the 49ers.

--- TE Chris Cooley extended his team-high string of consecutive starts to 82, counting three playoff games.

--- LB London Fletcher and S LaRon Landry have each started all 32 games (including a playoff loss) the longest streaks on the defense, since joining the Redskins in 2007.

--- SLB Marcus Washington returned against Philadelphia after missing four games with a left high ankle sprain.

--- DT Cornelius Griffin returned after sitting out last week with an abdominal strain.

--- OT Jon Jansen was inactive with a sprained left knee for a second straight week and was again replaced by Jason Fabini.

--- SS Chris Horton returned after sitting out last week with a sprained right shoulder.

--- DT Kedric Golston was inactive with bone spurs in his right ankle. Golston had returned from the same injury against the Bengals after missing the previous two games. Anthony Montgomery started in his place.



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