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Intensity on Display: Redskins-Eagles

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When the Redskins and Eagles met in their most recent contest, the date was Dec. 12, 2004 and the venue was FedExField. The Eagles came up with a 17-14 win, but the game could have gone either way--in keeping with the history of the series between the two fierce NFC East rivals.

In fact, Game 13 of the 2004 season was action-packed from beginning to end. Ladell Betts got the Redskins rolling with a 70-yard kickoff return. Clinton Portis had a pair of short TD runs. The second, a two-yard effort with 12:04 left in the game, drew the Redskins to within 17-14.

In the final two minutes, though, Patrick Ramsey looked for Chris Cooley in the end zone but his pass was intercepted by Philly safety Brian Dawkins. Ramsey was 29-for-45 for 251 yards in the Sunday Night matchup.

The Eagles had already clinched their fourth straight NFC East title. But in that one, the Redskins gave them all they could handle.

As we all know, these are two teams about 130 miles apart. Same division. One wears burgundy and gold, the other green and white. And, oh, they've been slugging it out for exactly 71 years.

Since first colliding in 1934, the Redskins and Eagles have produced an abundance of wild, bizarre and dramatic games. From the league's formative years to the Eagles' 27-25 victory in 2003--when Ramsey rallied Washington from an 11-point deficit in the waning minutes before misfiring on a conversion pass in the final seconds--the Redskins and Eagles have enthralled football fans.

Just ask Redskins Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, who played his first seven seasons in Philly before coming to Washington.

"Look at how many close games the Redskins and Eagles have had over the years," says Jurgensen, a long-time Redskins radio color analyst. "Regardless of the records, the games will still be close. You knew when you went to Philadelphia, it was going to be a very physical game, a knock-down, drag-out fight. That's the city's culture."

The biggest win in the series has gone to the Redskins. In the only playoff game between the teams, Washington earned a 20-6 victory in January 1991 that was oh, so, sweet, for it redeemed the Redskins after a humiliating loss a few weeks prior in the infamous "body bag" game. The win came at the height of the Redskins-Eagles rivalry, when Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and his Eagles counterpart, Buddy Ryan, battled it out in the entertaining NFC East from 1986 to 1990, the longest period when both teams have been true contenders.

The Redskins also hold the upper hand in one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history, the landmark 1964 deal that brought Jurgensen to the Nation's Capital and sent quarterback Norm Snead to Philadelphia.

As for the unruliest fans, former Redskins star running back Larry Brown categorically gives the nod to those in the City of Brotherly Love. Says Brown: "They can be very, very nasty."

In the NFL's early days, the Redskins reached the NFL championship game six times and won twice from 1936 to 1945 while the Eagles were often among the league's worst squads.

The Redskins also clipped the Eagles in D.C., on Dec. 7, 1941, in what's called the world's most forgotten football game. Washington won 20-14. Around game time at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. PST), the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Midway through the first quarter, the public address announcer began sending puzzling and ominous messages over the loud speaker, summoning admirals, generals, cabinet officers, ambassadors and government officials to their offices in Washington.

By the mid-1940s, the Eagles began to dominate the rivalry and won eight straight games at one point behind a high-powered offense led by Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren. NFL champions in 1948 and 1949, the Eagles were angling for a return to the title game in 1952. But Washington's 27-21 season-ending upset spoiled the Eagles' bid.

Philly won another championship in 1960 behind legendary quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. He then retired, opening the door for rifle-armed Jurgensen. By 1964, Eagles coach Joe Kuharich overhauled his roster by trading away such stars as Jurgensen and Tommy McDonald. Redskins coach Bill McPeak considered Jurgensen one of the league's top three passers, along with Baltimore's Johnny Unitas and New York's Y.A. Tittle.

D.C. fans also loved No. 9, who became a leader on an explosive offense that also showcased receivers Charley Taylor and Bobby Mitchell, both Hall of Famers, and gifted tight end Jerry Smith. In his first game against Philadelphia on Oct. 11, 1964, Sonny threw five scoring passes in a 35-20 Redskins victory.

When the Redskins became formidable in the '70s, reaching the playoffs five times with one Super Bowl appearance, they beat the Eagles almost week after week. That changed with the arrival in Philly of coach Dick Vermeil, who guided the Eagles to four straight playoff appearances, including one Super Bowl, through the 1981 season.

But the Redskins, winners of eight of their last 11 games in 1981 under first-year coach Joe Gibbs, delivered a 37-34 shocker in the 1982 season-opener at Veterans Stadium. Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was sharp with 28 of 39 completions for 382 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his squad back from the brink of defeat time after time. Redskins kicker Mark Moseley hit a 48-yard field goal to tie the game at the end of regulation and a 26-yarder to win it in overtime. Once the latter kick split the uprights, an elated Gibbs leaped into Theismann's arms.

Gibbs calls it one of the biggest games during his first stint in Washington, when the Redskins went to four Super Bowls and won three. "They'd been to the Super Bowl two years before, so to open up like that at their place was great. That was probably our key game that year, kind of established us for the first time as somebody that might win the division."

In a 1989 game, the Redskins held a 20-0 first-quarter lead before wilting under an All-Pro performance by Randall Cunningham. He posted team records of 34 completions and 447 yards, plus five scoring passes, one of which cut the Redskins lead to 37-35 with 1:50 left. Redskins running back Gerald Riggs, who rushed for a team-record 221 yards that day, ran 58 yards to the Eagles 22 on the next possession. But he fumbled soon after, and defensive back Wes Hopkins gained control and raced 77 yards to the Redskins' 7. Cunningham then found tight end Keith Jackson for the winning score to climax one of the strangest games in RFK history.

The formidable Philly defense pounded the Redskins in the "body bag game," a 28-14 Eagles Monday Night victory at Veterans Stadium on Nov. 12, 1990. Nine Redskins left the field with injuries, including starting quarterback Jeff Rutledge and backup Stan Humphries. Rookie running back Brian Mitchell, a QB in college at Southwest Louisiana, was forced into action.

The embarrassed Redskins would have a chance for revenge in a wild card playoff game at Veterans Stadium on Jan. 5, 1991. The Eagles were chest-thumping in the days prior, thinking they would obliterate the Redskins. The brash Buddy Ryan predicted that Redskins running back Earnest Byner would fumble three times. Byner and company took care of business on game day, manhandling the Eagles 20-6.

This year, the Eagles are armed with stars at quarterback (Donovan McNabb), wide receiver (Terrell Owens) and running back (Brian Westbrook). The defense is one of the league's nastiest, under the direction of coordinator Jim Johnson. That's the basic recipe Andy Reid has used to capture the NFC East every season since 2001.

When the Redskins opened the 2005 season in strong fashion and the Eagles stumbled versus Atlanta and Dallas, it set up another key NFC East matchup Sunday night at FedExField. Both teams are 4-3, coming off tough losses and probably facing a game in which key players will be missing due to injury.

It's the only 2005 meeting between the two teams, if you want to be precise about it. They'll meet again Jan. 1 in Philadelphia. The calendar changes but the intensity of the rivalry between the Redskins and the Eagles seems to remain.

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