Skins see playoff hopes fizzle

<P>LANDOVER, Md.--The reality left them numb. So, too, did their own play. The Redskins did it all: dropped passes; missed opportunities; costly turnovers; dumb penalties. It wasn't the complete game they were looking for. Now they need help just to once more dream of the postseason. </P>

Philadelphia beat Washington, 20-10, in a game that could have crushed the Redskins' playoff hopes. They could have gained ground, but instead left themselves needing to scoreboard watch over the next three weeks.

 ''It's been done before, stranger things have happened,'' Redskins quarterback Tony Banks said.

But the Redskins (6-7) will need to play much better than they did against the Eagles (9-4) if they hope to finish with a three-game winning streak. Washington's defense forced four turnovers, yet the Redskins blew the gifts, despite running back Stephen Davis rushing for 111 yards. Washington also controlled the clock, holding the ball for 33 minutes, 48 seconds. But quarterback Tony Banks completed 17 of 36 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, arguably his worst performance of the season--one week after his best.

The Redskins penetrated the Eagles' 37-yard line eight times, yet managed only two field goals. They had two possessions inside the 10-yard line--one ended in a field goal; the other in an interception. And so it went. The defense allowed 10 second-half points, including seven on a 62-yard strike to receiver Todd Pinkston in the third quarter for a 17-6 lead. But the offense wasn't about to point fingers their way.

''We let the defense down,'' Banks said. ''Every time you turn the ball over in the red zone and just try to kick field goals, you're not going to beat a team like the Eagles. I just didn't play well enough for us to beat this team. I have to be better.''

No kidding. The defense did its best to overcome the offense's woes. Tackle Dan Wilkinson intercepted a first-quarter pass at the Philadelphia 26. But Washington missed a field goal. Linebacker LaVar Arrington intercepted a pass at his own 45, but the Redskins wound up punting.

Here's what happened because of the missed chances: the Eagles, dominated for much of the first half, grabbed a 10-6 halftime lead thanks to a four-yard touchdown pass by Donovan McNabb to receiver Freddie Mitchell and a 40-yard David Akers field goal with four seconds left in the half. Two more botched opportunities followed in the fourth quarter: corner Darrell Green picked off a pass at the Eagles' 31, but the Redskins turned it over on downs; end Bruce Smith ripped the ball away from running back Duce Staley at the Eagles' 28, but Banks threw an interception in the back of the end zone with 3:21 remaining. '

'I was in the process of thinking if we should go for an onside kick,'' Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said. Banks' other interception occured inside the Eagles' 10, when, under pressure, he failed to see safety Brian Dawkins, who easily caught the ball. '

'The offense did more to contribute to this loss than any other phase,'' Redskins tight end Walter Rasby said. ''We shot ourselves in the foot.'' The Redskins dropped eight passes, committed seven penalties and converted only three of 14 third downs. They also missed numerous tackles.

''It was a horrible day,'' Redskins receiver Michael Westbrook, who dropped two passes, said. ''You can't win games like that.''

In truth, the Redskins blew the game in the first half, squandering excellent field position, starting with Wilkinson's interception. End Bruce Smith had nailed McNabb as he was about to throw, forcing the ball to pop up in the air. The Redskins failed to take advantage and looked bad doing it. Receiver Rod Gardner committed pass interference on first down and, on third and 11, the Redskins were flagged for delay of game. Still, Washington had a chance for points, but kicker Brett Conway knocked a 39-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. That's three times in the past two weeks Conway has missed a kick by hitting the upright. But Washington took a 3-0 lead on a 47-yard Conway kick on its next possession.

It could have been more as Eric Metcalf returned a punt 30 yards to his own 46. The Redskins made it 6-0 on a 25-yard Conway field goal in the second quarter. This time, Dawkins chased down Gardner from behind on a 57-yard pass play to the 7-yard line. Once more, the Redskins failed to make anything happen.

''Hell yeah I was [worried after that],'' Rasby said. ''The second one we needed to punch in. We definitely needed to score a touchdown.'' Now they definitely need help. ''Our chances are very, very, very remote,'' Westbrook said, ''but it's still there.'' ''We could have been in a situation where we didn't have to hope and pray,'' Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. ''We failed to take advantage of it. We'll do what we can do to get the last three, then if there's a miracle, so be it.''


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories