PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles are two victories away from having homefield advantage at Veterans Stadium -- something teams such as Green Bay and Tampa Bay don't want to see.
|Duce Staley dives in for one of his touchdowns in Sunday's title-clinching victory.(AP)|
"If you go around the league and ask people where they don't want to play, this is at the top of the list," coach Andy Reid said.
A.J. Feeley, who began the season as the third-string quarterback, threw two touchdown passes as Philadelphia (11-3) won its fourth consecutive without quarterback Donovan McNabb, who broke his right ankle Nov. 17.
This one was played in swirling winds in front of a noisy crowd. Along with the reputation for bad turf, the crumbling Vet is a nightmare for visiting teams.
But the ultimate goal -- getting to the Super Bowl for the first time since the Dick Vermeil-led Eagles got there after the 1980 season -- may not be so easy. They likely will need a healthy McNabb to do that.
"I like the way this team plays," Washington coach Steve Spurrier said of Philadelphia. "They don't play giveaway. They get a lot of loose balls. We're not as alert as the Eagle team."
That was obvious from the start Sunday for the Redskins (5-9).
On the second play from scrimmage, Stephen Davis broke loose toward midfield but had the ball knocked away by Brian Dawkins, and Michael Lewis recovered for Philadelphia. Davis separated his right shoulder on the play and did not return.
Spurrier said Davis is likely out for the season. Davis said he expects to be back next season.
That turnover didn't lead to a score but two other Washington fumbles did. Champ Bailey fumbled a punt for the second week in a row to set up a 28-yard field goal by David Akers, and linebacker Carlos Emmons had a 44-yard fumble return for a score in the third quarter.
"Just before that, Carlos said, 'I'm gonna score today, I feel it,' Then he did it," defensive end Hugh Douglas said. "When stuff like that happens, you know it's your day."
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead on Feeley's 38-yard screen pass to Duce Staley, going 65 yards in four plays. Staley also went in from 1 yard out in the second quarter to give the Eagles a 17-0 lead.
The Eagles went back up by 17 when Emmons picked up Ramsey's fumble five minutes into the third quarter and rumbled 44 yards to make it 24-7 while several Redskins watched passively, thinking Emmons had been touched down.
Feeley, who was 16-of-28 for 220 yards, then put things away with a 6-yard TD pass to Antonio Freeman that made it 31-7 with 1:55 left in the third quarter before two late scores by Washington.
Akers added a 45-yard field goal with 2:29 left.
This was supposed to be the last game at the Vet, but the win ensures that Philadelphia will have at least one playoff game before moving next year to its new stadium across the street.
Many of Reid's players consider that a huge advantage, especially Brian Mitchell and Freeman, who came here as visiting players.
"The turf is OK now," said Mitchell, who moved past Walter Payton into second place on the all-purpose yardage list behind Jerry Rice. "But when I used to come in here with the Redskins, we all talked about how bad it was -- and it was then. That plays with people's heads. I think it's a big, big advantage for us."
For the Redskins, it's wait until next year.
- Emmons' touchdown was his first in seven NFL seasons.
- Mitchell now has 21,902 all-purpose yards in his 13-year career.
- Feeley's first pass was intercepted, just his second of the season in 122 attempts.
- Reid said if Koy Detmer is healthy, he will start at quarterback next week in Dallas. Detmer injured his left elbow in his only start.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved