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Redskins take down the Eagles

September 18, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Remember when the quest for quarterback supremacy in the NFC East was a three-way battle among Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb, Dallas' Tony Romo and the New York Giants' Eli Manning?

Well, make room for Jason Campbell.

The third-year Washington quarterback, making only his third NFL start, outplayed McNabb and -- with the help of a stout defense -- held on for a 20-12 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.

While the Eagles dropped to 0-2 for the first time since 2003 and were serenaded by boos as they plodded off the field, the Redskins joined Dallas as the division's two undefeated teams.

"Everybody knew what we were up against," Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said. "It's a tough place, probably one of the toughest places to play in the NFL."

Philadelphia has owned the Redskins in recent years, sweeping them four of the last five seasons and going 9-2 against them in their last 11 meetings.

Campbell's performance was more dependable than dazzling. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But he made the plays he had to, doing so on national TV.

"Jason is going to continue to become a great quarterback," said tight end Chris Cooley, who caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Campbell at the end of the first half. "He has everything he needs. He can make a lot of throws, and we're going to score more and more points."

That scoring throw, which capped a bizarre series of miscues that included three consecutive penalties by the Redskins and an ill-advised timeout by Philadelphia, was a huge momentum-builder for Washington heading into the locker room.

"Right before the half, it was great to see him hit that," Gibbs said. The coach added, however, that the Redskins could have done a better job of helping Campbell by hanging on to more of his passes.

More than any other quarterback, McNabb has tormented the Redskins. He had been 7-1 against them with twice as many touchdown passes, 16, as interceptions.

But in this game, that 5 on his chest bore no resemblance to Superman's S. Despite his respectable numbers -- 28 for 46 for 240 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions -- he looked rusty and frequently misfired, either overthrowing his receivers or screwing passes into the turf at their feet.

McNabb, who sat out the final eight games last season, including two in the playoffs because of an injured knee, has dropped off significantly since leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl in January 2005. He's 9-12 since that loss to New England and has lost six of his last seven starts.

Disappointed as they are about their sluggish start, the Eagles know those obstacles can be overcome. Despite losing their first two games in 2003, they finished that season 12-4 and advanced to the conference championship game.

"We just have to have faith in each other regardless of what people say, what people hint around," Philadelphia linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "It's all about us."

Even though he struggled throughout the game to get the offense moving, McNabb was on the verge of a dramatic comeback in the game's waning minutes. With the Eagles trailing, 20-9, early in the fourth quarter, he directed a drive to the Washington four-yard line that ended with a field goal, then another drive deep into Redskins territory.

With little more than a minute remaining and the Eagles facing an eight-point deficit, McNabb moved them in position to possibly tie the score. They had a third and six at the Washington nine-yard line with 1 minute 13 seconds to play, but McNabb rushed his pass, overthrowing a wide-open Kevin Curtis running an out along the goal line to set up a do-or-die play on fourth down. That pass was knocked harmlessly to the ground and the game was essentially over.

Asked about the difficulty of keeping the Eagles out of the end zone, Gibbs said, "Extremely hard to do. I don't think that's going to happen again."

That remains to be seen. For the moment Monday, the Redskins were satisfied to savor their unblemished record, and their newly justified confidence in their up-and-coming offensive leader.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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