Redskins stumble in Philly

The season turned ugly long ago and even linebacker LaVar Arrington has lost track of the defeats. So he was surprised when told he'd finish with a losing record for the first time since his sophomore year of high school. For a second, Arrington tried to correct the person giving him the stat.

 Then he realized he was wrong.

 ''I'm in denial,'' he said.

 And who could blame him? The Redskins have done that to their fans and now to their players. They just don't want to believe they're as bad as their 5-9 record after losing 34-21 to Philadelphia.

 But that's what they are. Washington has slipped from mediocrity to bad in only one season. Arrington knows that a losing season preceeded by two 8-8 seasons isn't good.

 ''That's regression,'' he said.

 Which is the only spin to put on this season. Especially after a game in which the Redskins should have blocked a punt, but didn't. Instead they were flagged for roughing the punter. They should have recovered an Eagles fumble, but it slid from the grasp of linebacker Kevin Mitchell.

 On and on it went, for the game and the season. Meanwhile, the dream year continues for the Eagles (11-3), who clinched their second straight NFC East title--and won their fourth straight game without quarterback Donovan McNabb.

 The Redskins, who once fancied themselves a playoff contender, have dropped five of six heading into Sunday's game against Houston. And running back Stephen Davis dislocated his right shoulder on the game's second play. Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said afterward he thought Davis would miss the final two games.

 ''It just seems like a lot of things haven't gone our way,'' Mitchell said. ''It's just that type of year right now. Nothing's going right for us. We're fighting against a lot of demons right now.''

 The Redskins (5-9) turned the ball over three times--leading to 10 Eagle points--including another muffed punt by Champ Bailey and a botched handoff that resulted in Emmons' touchdown. They missed tackles, leading to big gains, and surrendered long touchdowns on harmless screens. They committed nine penalties.

 ''We're not very good or very smart right now,'' Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said.

 No kidding.

 ''It gets frustrating,'' Redskins defensive tackle Daryl Gardener said, ''but we've been doing it all year. Next year we have to get a lot better if we're going to make a run at this.''

 At least quarterback Patrick Ramsey had a decent day, completing 23 of 35 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Spurrier tried to find solace in Ramsey's performance, and with the scoring passes against one of the NFL's top defenses.

 But the NFL is a bottom-line league and wins and losses matter more than anything.

 ''The storyline remains the same,'' Arrington said. ''This team is trying to find itself, figure out where we need help. We're trying to find our identity and you would hope we'd [already] be in that direction. But there have been a lot of changes. We've been plagued with certain things that could have been stable. Instead we keep reeling and we have to build for next year. We just have to keep trying to regroup.''

 Spurrier even questioned at least some players' effort.

 ''Some guys did not bust their tails,'' he said.

 The players disagreed with Spurrier's assessment, some wondering why he would say such a thing. But even corner Darrell Green said guys are playing for different reasons, mostly centered around their needs rather than the team's. They're playing for contracts, not wins.

 ''Ultimately there should be one focus and that is to win,'' he said.

 But he also knows what's happening.

 ''You look in the player's eyes and they want to win, but they have a puzzled look,'' Green said. ''You get that way when you are lost and start to overanalyze the game. It starts to snowball.''

 The snowball has started an avalanche.

 And the game turned into one as well, with the Eagles taking a 31-7 lead before the Redskins rallied with two touchdowns.

 Ramsey made the final score respectable, first with a 30-yard scoring pass to Rod Gardner. With 8:36 remaining in the game, Ramsey connected with receiver Derrius Thompson for a 21 yard touchdown. But the Redskins, after forcing a punt, couldn't advance beyond their own 29 on its next possession, ending any realistic chance of getting closer.

 Washington looked silly on the Eagles' first touchdown. Running back Duce Staley ran 38 yards with a screen pass, using excellent blocks and poor tackling attempts to score. Safety David Terrell slipped on the play and corner Fred Smoot got turned around and fell, too.

 Bailey's muffed punt at his own 36 led to a David Akers 28-yard field goal.

 ''I'm disappointed because I put my team in a bad position,'' said Bailey, who muffed a punt last week, too. ''And it always happens on our side of the field. It's unfortunate because I know I can do it and be as good as anybody and to drop it. . . ''

  The Eagles added a one-yard Staley touchdown run on their next possession, aided by a 53-yard pass to fullback Cecil Martin. Once more, Terrell missed a tackle.

 ''With their coverage they seem to drop and get really soft,'' said Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley (16 of 28, 220 yards, two touchdowns, one interception). ''We came into the game with the idea that screens are going to work with these guys.''

 Finally, Washington answered, Ramsey passing 15 yards to Chris Doering, who got drilled by safety Brian Dawkins after his feet landed, for a touchdown and 17-7 halftime deficit.

 Once more the Redskins struggled for answers after the game.

 ''When you have mistakes in practice and they don't get corrected, it carries to the game,'' Davis said.
 
 But even when they correct mistakes, it doesn't help. Not lately.

 ''It seems like we've got everything covered,'' Bailey said, ''and then something else leaks.''

 


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