A Monday night American tradition returns to the nation's capital this week when the Washington Redskins host the NFC East-rival Philadelphia Eagles on ABC's NFL Monday Night Football.
In last week's 31-23 win over Arizona, the Redskins piled up 442 yards of offense, as NFC Offensive Player of the Week SHANE MATTHEWS threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns in his first start as a Redskin. Running back STEPHEN DAVIS added 104 yards rushing as well as a career-high-tying seven receptions.
Second-year wide receiver ROD GARDNER proved a favorite target of Matthews, finishing with seven receptions for 131 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown catch.
"In the first half, we completed a few passes but none were deep," says Gardner. "In the second half, Coach told us we were going to have a chance to go deep. We did go deep, we had the opportunity to make big plays, and we did. That's what we have to continue to do this week."
Adds head coach Spurrier, who has a 37-0 record in September games in his coaching career: "I was very proud of the effort of our team. I think we are hustling and playing with a lot of energy. The Eagles have one of the best defenses in the league, so that'll be a big challenge for us. We are all looking forward to it."
Maybe no player is looking forward to the game as much as Redskins linebacker JEREMIAH TROTTER. Trotter spent 1998-01 with the Eagles, starting 48 games and earning Pro Bowl selections in 2000 and 2001. He joined the Redskins as a free agent during the offseason and will face his former teammates for the first time.
"I have a lot of good memories of my time in Philadelphia," Trotter says. "I loved my teammates and we had great chemistry. But now, I'd love to drop them to 0-2. This is a division game, a big game, and I'm going to do everything I can to help us win it."
The Eagles enter the game after losing their season opener 27-24 to the Tennessee Titans. But playing in primetime is good news for Philadelphia under head coach ANDY REID. The club is a perfect 5-0 in primetime contests under Reid, outscoring opponents 145-74. But the outcome of Monday's tilt will not be so one-sided if the previous pattern of Eagles-Redskins games holds true. Of the past 21 contests, 18 have been decided by seven points or less.
Philadelphia's formidable defense, a unit that sent three current starters – safety BRIAN DAWKINS, defensive end HUGH DOUGLAS and cornerback TROY VINCENT (plus Trotter) – to last year's Pro Bowl will face a stern test both in the air and on the ground.
"This week is a new challenge," Vincent said. "We're down one game and we're facing our division nemesis, Washington. They will try to spread us out and take advantage. It's going to be a great matchup."
Eagles quarterback DONOVAN MC NABB, rapidly establishing himself as one of the NFL's most potent offensive weapons, helped his team to a win in his only Monday night start, a 10-9 triumph over the New York Giants on October 22, 2001, ending a four-year, nine-game losing streak against the Eagles' NFC foes.