And they went out and made sure that game wasn't the start of something bad. Instead, the Redskins showed their character and resiliency in beating the Eagles, 17-10, Sunday night. Maybe the Eagles played without Terrell Owens. But they still had a defense worthy of a championship. And they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Donovan McNabb.
What the Redskins showed, though, is that they are a confident team. Their belief has been evident all season, even in a game in which they, too, had injury problems. Yet they found a way to win another close game, something they haven't always done. It's not a coincidence. The players believed in one another, which was evident back in training camp.
In tight games, that stuff matters.
The Redskins now are 5-3 and headed toward a fun finish. If that finish leads them to the postseason remains to be seen. But the final two months should be more enjoyable than the past five.
Offensive MVP: Quarterback Mark Brunell. While Santana Moss gives the offense a spark, it's Brunell who gives it the consistency. Not to mention a guy who did a terrific job Sunday. He led receivers well, giving them a chance to gain more yards. He softly dumped passes to players and he did a good job of managing the game while making plays.
But one problem: Brunell should have stepped up into the pocket when he felt the rush inside the 20. Because he didn't, the ball was stripped from his hands and the Eagles recovered. It's not Brunell's fault that Chris Samuels was beaten on the play, but Brunell could have helped by stepping up, something he also failed to do at Kansas City.
Big play: Guard Derrick Dockery's falling on Chris Cooley's fumble saved the game as Clinton Portis scored one play later, snapping a 10-10 tie. Dockery can be inconsistent and he had his usual penalty, but give him credit for hustle. Teams that hustle seem to win more.
Defensive MVP:The defensive line. Give it to all of them. They shut down all running lanes, though they had support on the edges, especially from the corners. But playing without Cornelius Griffin, their best run-stopper, could have spelled trouble. It didn't. It's a credit to how well this group is prepared. Consider this: they were successful using a guy bothered by plantar faciitis (Joe Salave'a); a rookie from Fordham (Aki Jones); and a tackle better suited for end (Demetric Evans). Yet the Eagles managed only 2.0 yards per carry. Ends Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels played strong games. The Eagles just couldn't get wide. And the linebackers were able to move freely to the ball.
Special mention: Safety Ryan Clark. Not just because of his interception. On that play, many Redskins did their jobs well and Donovan McNabb had nowhere to throw the ball. But Clark played an overall solid game, forcing an incompletion with another hit. He also shadowed Brian Westbrook on occasion, once stopping him for a one-yard gain on third and 10 when the Redskins blitzed two defenders. Westbrook had 79 total yards, but 27 came on one screen pass.
Good play: Walt Harris had a rough night, mainly because he missed so many tackles. But he made one nice play in the final series. On third and four, the Eagles tried a misdirection play in which McNabb rolled right and was going to throw back left to the tight end. But Harris didn't bite on the misdirection and stayed with the tight end, forcing an incompletion.
Nice to see: Linebacker LaVar Arrington named a captain. He responded with a solid game, making two stops behind the line of scrimmage to help. Arrington brought his usual energy to the field. Now I wonder if the coaches will get asked this question, ''Why didn't Warrick Holdman play?''
T.O.'s presence: There's no doubt the Eagles are better off, at least on the field, with receiver Terrell Owens. Whether or not they would ahve won Sunday is another matter. This franchise has made a living out of winning when star players go down. So it's not an excuse. But his absence was obvious near the goal line on the late drive. With tight end L.J. Smith out of the game, too, the Eagles lacked anyone big to get free in the end zone.
Tough night: Not sure any Redskin had as tough a night as James Thrash, at least when it came to returning punts. Thrash failed to catch one punt, allowing it to roll 10 yards to the 5; he fumbled another when he failed to secure the ball; and he fair caught another when he had room to run. Thrash is a dependable veteran, but this wasn't his best showing.
Overrated?: Eagles corner Lito Sheppard missed a bunch of tackles and was flagged for a 39-yard pass interference penalty, setting up Washington's first touchdown. Sheppard made the Pro Bowl last season.
YAC's: Receiver Santana Moss had 79 yards receiving and he seemed to get the bulk of them after he caught the ball. Moss does an excellent job feeling where the defensive backs are. And, because they play him a bit softer, it enables him to shake free easier. On one of his screens, tackle Jon Jansen and guard Randy Thomas both had excellent blocks.