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The Eagles and Redskins try to bounce back


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For the first few weeks of the NFL season, it seemed a foregone conclusion Philadelphia would win the NFC East, even though the other three teams in the division had improved markedly.

Not now. The Eagles' trip to Landover to play the Redskins on Sunday night has the aspects of a survival game.

No, neither team has reached the halfway mark, so there seems little reason to panic. Both are 4-3, a game behind the Giants and a half-game behind the Cowboys in a very balanced division.

But there have to be questions after last week: Philadelphia losing 49-21 in Denver and Washington 36-0 in the Meadowlands.

"I think it's going to be a defining moment for this team, for this season," Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell says. "I'll tell you, if we can get this one, we'll be back on track. If not, we're going to be in a hole, and we'll have to fight our way out of it."

Complicating the issue is the way the two teams above them have played, especially the Giants.

New York's next two games are at San Francisco and at home to Minnesota, meaning there's a good chance Philadelphia will be facing a 7-2 team when it goes to Giants Stadium on Nov. 20. Dallas has played well enough to be 7-1 and keeps finding fill-ins like Marion Barber III, who rushed for 127 yards in last week's win over Arizona.

But back to the Eagles and Redskins.

After a 52-17 win over San Francisco that had its fans thinking Super Bowl, Washington deteriorated on both offense and defense against the Giants.

Philadelphia's problem has been offensive imbalance, exposing the already injured Donovan McNabb to more hits. Just 101 of the 438 offensive plays have been carries by the running backs, although with Terrell Owens nursing a sore ankle, the Eagles might be forced to run more often.

There are also problems on a defense that allowed Denver to roll up 564 yards.

"Obviously, we cannot do it like we have been doing it," coach Andy Reid says. "We have to get better as players and coaches, and I have a lot of trust in both the players and the coaches. We will work very hard and make sure we get it together and do a better job."

Sounds more like hope than conviction.

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Thursday, November 3, 2005


Courier-Post Staff


The Eagles' defense prides itself on giving up yards, but not giving up points.

That's changed this season, one in which the Eagles are giving up both yards and points.

The performance of the defense has played a role in the Eagles' slump since Week 2 when they defeated San Francisco, 42-3.

The Eagles are not hiding from their shortcomings, which culminated last week in a 49-21 loss to Denver. It was the most points the Eagles had given up in a game since 1972.

"Obviously not," said safety Brian Dawkins when asked whether the defense was playing well enough to keep the Eagles in games. "That was especially in the last game. That's too many points to give up."

The Eagles (4-3) will have to try to rectify that problem Sunday when they visit the Washington Redskins (4-3) at FedEx Field.

The Redskins present a three-pronged offensive attack with quarterback Mark Brunell throwing to receiver Santana Moss, and Clinton Portis providing the bulk of the rushing yardage, so it's not going to be easy.

"We realize that we have to come out and play like we know we can play and it has to be on a more consistent basis," said linebacker Keith Adams. "We have to be a little more aggressive. It's going to take hard work. Anytime you want to try to make a difference you have to work at it."

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson addressed some of the issues facing his unit at his weekly news conference on Thursday.

He admitted the Eagles have drifted into a new, unstable area with their recent performances.

"It's foreign territory," Johnson said. "For us to be giving up touchdown passes and giving up big plays is very unusual. It's hard to pinpoint. Part of it's pressure, part of it's coverage, and part of it is I have to put them in better position to cover."

Last week, the Eagles' defense was exposed in all areas against Denver. The Broncos compiled 564 total yards, 309 through the air and 255 on the ground.

Jake Plummer completed 22-of-35 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Broncos had Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell both rush for more than 100 yards. Bell scored on a 67-yard run, the latest in series of big plays the Eagles have given up this season.

"When they (the opposition) are making plays, you have to give them credit," Dawkins said. "But that doesn't have to be a guarantee that they're going to get into the end zone."

There are reasons the Eagles have struggled this season.

For one thing, they seldom seem to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and that has given receivers time to get open.

"I wouldn't say the (lack of a pass rush) is killing us," Dawkins said. "But we know we have to get more pressure on the quarterback."

Brunell is one of those quarterbacks who can be rattled, but he can also tear a defense apart when given time.

The Eagles also have given up a lot of long pass receptions this season, something they haven't done in years.

"We're in position to make the plays," Dawkins said. "We just don't make them."

And the Eagles' defense has not gotten much help this season.

Early in the season, the coverage teams were so porous that it seemed the opposing teams were always playing a short field.

Now the offense is sputtering. The Eagles lead the NFL in three-and-outs, which gives the defense little time to regroup.

But Johnson did not want to use that as an excuse.

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