Mark Brunell was walking better and feeling better on Wednesday, but he wouldn't go as far as promising that he would be Washington's quarterback when the Redskins attempt to clinch their first playoff spot since 1999 on Sunday in Philadelphia.
"It's feeling a little better today than it did yesterday," Brunell said of the sprained right knee that sidelined him in the third quarter of a 35-20 victory over the New York Giants five days ago. "Each day it's progressing, feeling better. It's day-to-day still. The more time I can get rehabbing this thing, the better off I'll be. We'll see, but I'm pleased with where I'm at right now."
And Brunell replied, "Absolutely," when asked if the magnitude of the game would hasten his return to the lineup. If the Redskins (9-6) lose to the Eagles (6-9), they'll need the reeling St. Louis Rams (5-10) to upset the Cowboys (9-6) in Dallas to make the playoffs.
"In talking to Mark, he gives me the impression that he thinks he can go, and we'll work towards that," coach Joe Gibbs said.
If Brunell's knee doesn't recover in time, he is confident that backup Patrick Ramsey, who played well in relief against the Giants, would respond in a positive fashion.
"Patrick would do fine," Brunell said. "For a guy to come off the bench, not having any reps all week, and lead the team and score (14) points, is pretty impressive. (Backup quarterback) is probably the toughest position on the team because you don't get to practice and yet you're called upon to play ... many times when the game's on the line, like it was against the Giants."
Good soldier Ramsey, suddenly benched for Brunell in the season opener against Chicago, is rooting to return to his backup role.
"Mark has gotten us to this point, and you hope for him that he's able to play," Ramsey said. "I hope we win and go to the playoffs. If I do go in to play, I hope I play well and we win. It's that simple, really."
The Redskins see their playoff fate in equally stark terms. Gibbs has them convinced that if they fail to extend their winning streak to five games, they're toast.
"Our season is riding on this game," Brunell said. "To get to this place from where we were at 5-6 is pretty remarkable. But as great as these last four games have been, if we don't get this one, it'll be tough to end the season this way."
Said Gibbs, "If you win, you're in. You lose you're out. We've been in that situation the last four weeks. Our players have really kind of rallied behind (that). Now we're getting ready to go see if we can get the last one."
SERIES HISTORY: 142nd meeting. The Redskins lead the series 74-62-5, including a 20-6 victory in a first-round playoff game in Philadelphia in 1990 that got blowhard Eagles coach Buddy Ryan fired. The most memorable game in the series was the game that preceded that playoff game: "The Body Bag Game" in which the fearsome Philadelphia defense knocked Redskins quarterbacks Jeff Rutledge and Stan Humphries out of the game. With starter Mark Rypien already sidelined, coach Joe Gibbs was forced to play rookie running back Brian Mitchell, a college option quarterback, against the Eagles, who taunted the Redskins about their players being carried off in body bags. That lack of class in the Eagles' 28-14 victory fired up the Redskins come playoff time.
Quotes and Notes
--With 69 catches, H-back Chris Cooley has topped Washington's tight end/H-back record that was set in 1967 by the late Jerry Smith, an unfairly forgotten player with great hands. Smith's record came in a 14-game season, but there's no arguing that Cooley, whom the Redskins traded up to take in the third round in the 2004 draft, is a real find.
"It's awesome," Cooley said. "Thanks to the coaches for calling the plays and to all my teammates."
Cooley has seven touchdown catches, the most by a Washington tight end or H-back since Smith had nine in 1970.
--Linebacker LaVar Arrington enjoyed Christmas even if he did not get the present he is anxiously awaiting.
"I was hoping my favorite gift would be my baby girl, but she didn't come yet," he said. "I'm still waiting on that."
Trishia Arrington's due date is Jan. 15, the Sunday of the second round of the playoffs.
"If we win and we're going to the playoffs, (inducing the birth of daughter Marlee) is obviously going to be an option we have to explore because I don't want to miss the birth of my child," said Arrington, who has a 5-year-old son, Keeno, from a previous relationship.
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 - Years since the Redskins swept the Eagles. 5 - Current Redskins who have been to the playoffs with Washington.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Here's how dangerous they are: They took the Giants to overtime at their place three weeks ago. That's all you've got to say. We have to expect they're going to play that way against us." - Redskins coach Joe Gibbs on not underestimating the Eagles, losers of seven of nine, in Sunday's season finale at Philadelphia.
--CB Shawn Springs didn't practice Wednesday because of the strained back and groin with which he played the past two weeks. Springs is expected to start Sunday in Philadelphia.
--CB Carlos Rogers didn't practice Wednesday because of the left biceps injury he suffered on Dec. 11 at Arizona, which kept him out the past two weeks. Rogers is questionable for Sunday.
--DE Renaldo Wynn didn't practice Wednesday because of a sore arch but is expected to start against the Eagles.
--T Chris Samuels rested the sprained right knee and ankle he suffered at Arizona, but Samuels rested the past two Wednesdays and started both games. He'll start against the Eagles.
--S Matt Bowen, who has missed the past two games with a badly bruised knee and thigh, practiced Wednesday and is expected to play against Philadelphia.
--T Jon Jansen rested his sprained right thumb Wednesday but will start against the Eagles.
GAME PLAN: The Redskins have been running wild during their four-game winning streak, averaging 173 yards on 37 carries per game. With QB Mark Brunell not 100 percent, there are no plans to change that approach against the Eagles' 20th-ranked run defense.
Philadelphia's offense is minus its quarterback, receivers, running back, center and left tackle. There's not much left to scare a defense, but the Eagles did average 20 points the past three weeks despite interception-happy QB Mike McMahon. The Redskins' biggest problem could be not taking the battered Eagles seriously.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Redskins RT Jon Jansen vs. Eagles LDE Jevon Kearse. Jansen, who has played all year with a cast or splint on his broken right thumb, held the Giants' Michael Strahan without a sack last week. He needs a repeat against fellow supreme pass rusher Kearse - who's questionable with an ailing knee - since QB Mark Brunell won't be 100 percent with his own sprained knee.
--Redskins RB Clinton Portis vs. Eagles MLB Jeremiah Trotter. Portis has been the engine of Washington's offensive resurgence. Trotter is Philadelphia's lone Pro Bowl pick. Portis has gained just 184 yards on 61 carries in three games against the Eagles as a Redskin, including 67 yards on 21 carries in Washington's 17-10 victory on Nov. 5.
--Redskins FS Sean Taylor vs. Eagles RB Ryan Moats. Rookie Moats isn't the consistent producer that injured starter Brian Westbrook is, but he does have home run ability, having taken runs 40 and 59 yards to the house on Dec. 11 against the Giants and Dec. 18 at St. Louis. Taylor, the fastest Redskins defender, has to keep Moats from breaking a long one.
Even at 35, mobility is a big part of QB Mark Brunell's game. But even a hobbled Brunell is as mobile as pocket passer Ramsey. The Redskins hope to keep Brunell as protected as possible, which would dictate plenty of handoffs and quick passes.