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With the Philadelphia Eagles off to a fast start and the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field having much to celebrate early Sunday afternoon, the Washington Redskins continued to follow the lead of even-keeled Coach Jim Zorn.
Even as Washington's deficit quickly grew to 14 points and quarterback Jason Campbell had not completed a pass in a frustrating first quarter, players remembered the word Zorn had repeated so often: patience.
"He always tells us, 'Never too high, never too low, no matter what happens in a game,' " Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said. "I'm telling you, after hearing him and watching him all the time, I don't think anybody on the sideline had any doubt about what we would do."
The Redskins thus enjoyed another significant accomplishment in Zorn's five-game career as a head coach, overcoming their biggest deficit of the season as they rallied past the Eagles, 23-17, and extended their winning streak to four games in front of 69,144. Washington overcame Philadelphia's impressive opening act that included running back Brian Westbrook's 9-yard touchdown run and DeSean Jackson's 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first seven minutes.
Despite playing without three injured starters on defense — end Jason Taylor, strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington and cornerback Shawn Springs — the Redskins, for the most part, shut down the Eagles after they were sharp in scoring on the game's first possession. Philadelphia produced 119 total yards in the first quarter. The Eagles had only 135 yards the rest of the game.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers drew the difficult assignment of Jackson, the Eagles' speedy rookie wide receiver. Jackson had one catch for 8 yards. Washington also contained Westbrook, limiting him to 33 rushing yards and a 2.8-yard average.
Washington amassed 203 yards rushing among 388 total yards, believing in Zorn's one-play-at-a-time approach, players said, taking small steps that eventually led to 23 straight points and control of the clock. The Redskins had an advantage in time of possession of nearly 10 minutes.
Kicker Shaun Suisham made all three of his first-half field goal attempts (from 41, 48 and 50 yards) as the offense began to find its groove. A week after its impressive performance led to running back Clinton Portis's first 100-yard game of the season in a rare win over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, Washington's offensive line was even better against the NFL's top defense against the run entering the game.
Portis rushed for a season-high 145 yards (he had a 5.0-yard average) and one touchdown, setting the tone for change as the Redskins took control after halftime.
"Clinton is running the ball like a mad man right now," said Campbell, who had his fewest passing yards (176) in a Redskins win but set a franchise record with 175 consecutive passes without an interception. "The offensive line is just doing an outstanding job of giving him an opportunity to get those rushes, and also giving me time to throw the ball."
Portis's 4-yard run with 14 minutes, 54 seconds left gave the Redskins a nine-point lead. Tight end Chris Cooley had his most productive game with 109 yards and caught his first touchdown of the season from wide receiver Antwaan Randle El on an end-around play. Zorn, in his role as Washington's play-caller, showed he listens to the players, too.
The Redskins needed a yard on fourth down with fewer than three minutes remaining in the fourth, and Zorn, at the request of Portis, called a draw play for Portis from a shotgun formation.
"He wanted that play so bad, he asked (Zorn) to give it to him," center Casey Rabach said. "It's the same play we scored that 4-yard touchdown on. He had faith in us, we had faith in him, and he ran his (butt) off."
Portis gained three yards, the Redskins got a first down, and then Campbell finished things in a familiar way. He has kneeled to run out the clock in each victory during the winning streak, adding the final touch to outcomes that have become less of a surprise each week. Washington (4-1) has been among the league's best teams, its season-opening loss to the New York Giants a distant memory.
The Redskins have completed, on paper, what appears to be their most difficult stretch, having played three NFC East opponents on the road in their first five games. Consecutive victories over the Cowboys and Eagles (2-3) have helped put the Redskins in a strong position as they face the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions — a combined 1-11 — in their next three games.
The Redskins are rolling behind Zorn, and owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, were upbeat after the game. The Redskins remained cool in a tough spot, which is how they roll with Zorn, players said.
"Coach always talks about staying right there in the middle," defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander said. "You see he does it that way, so that's what we do."
Westbrook sat out the Eagles' previous game because of an ankle injury. He showed no lingering effects on the opening possession, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive with his nine-yard touchdown run. Then Jackson, standing at Philadelphia's 32-yard line, got under a ball that punter Durant Brooks kicked 37 yards without the hang time special teams coach Danny Smith would prefer.
REDSKINS 23, EAGLES 17
First Quarter Phi—Westbrook 9 run (Akers kick), 8:26. Phi—D.Jackson 68 punt return (Akers kick), 7:47. Second Quarter Was—FG Suisham 41, 12:00. Was—FG Suisham 48, 1:56. Was—FG Suisham 50, :02. Third Quarter Was—Cooley 18 pass from Randle El (Suisham kick), 8:08. Fourth Quarter Was—Portis 4 run (Suisham kick), 14:54. Phi—FG Akers 23, 7:18. A—69,144.
|Washington 0977 — 23|
|Philadelphia 14003 — 17|
|Total net yards||388||254|
|Time of possession||34:45||25:15|
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Washington, Portis 29-145, Betts 9-44, J.Campbell 6-14. Philadelphia, Westbrook 12-33, D.Jackson 2-13, R.Brown 1-6, Hunt 1-6, Buckhalter 2-0.
PASSING—Washington, J.Campbell 16-29-0-176, Randle El 1-1-0-18. Philadelphia, McNabb 17-29-0-196.
RECEIVING—Washington, Cooley 8-109, Randle El 3-34, D.Thomas 2-28, Portis 2-13, Betts 1-7, Yoder 1-3. Philadelphia, Westbrook 6-51, R.Brown 4-84, L.Smith 3-26, Lewis 1-22, D.Jackson 1-8.
MISSED FIELD GOAL—Philadelphia, Akers 50 (WR).
Next game Who: Rams (0-5) at Redskins (4-1).
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: 1 p.m. Sunday.
TV: Fox 35 43.