LANDOVER, Md. (AP) – Joe Gibbs and Andy Reid are No. 1 and No. 2 in the NFL in winning percentage among active coaches.

And both are coming off the worst losses of their careers.

As far as anyone can tell, neither one threw a chair or punched a hole in a wall this week. In fact, they appeared to be reading from the same script after Gibbs’ Washington Redskins lost by 36 points to the New York Giants and Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles were embarrassed by 28 at Denver.

Gibbs: “I think we take a long hard look at ourselves, and it certainly starts with me. … It seemed like we were kind of all of us together on it.”

Reid: “We’ve got to do a better job, starting with me. We’re all in this thing together, and we’ve just got to pick it up an inch.”

Maybe that’s how division titles and Super Bowls are won – there’s certainly no arguing with either man’s credentials -but their methods are getting a crucial test this week. The Eagles and Redskins, both 4-3, are limping, literally and figuratively, into tonight’s NFC East showdown.

“For both sides, I think we both need this,” Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb said. “It could jump-start a lot of different things that we want to do.”

The problems both coaches face can be boiled down to two words: injuries and blueprints. Both teams have several key players who are hobbling, and each provided the whole world a blueprint on how it can be beaten in the previous week’s game.

For the Eagles, Terrell Owens’ status is dicey because of a sprained right ankle and his outburst on Thursday, and McNabb has a bruised rib to go along with the sports hernia that has pained him all season. Defensive end Jevon Kearse has a shoulder injury, and former Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter has been bothered by a swollen knee.

For the Redskins, three starters along the defensive line – Cornelius Griffin (hip), Phillip Daniels (ankle) and Joe Salave’a (foot) – are hurting. Left tackle Chris Samuels had to have his knee drained this week.

“Everybody say a prayer,” Gibbs said. “We need good health.”

Gibbs also needs to find a Plan B when the opposition focuses on taking big-play receiver Santana Moss out of the offense, as the Giants did when they held the Redskins to 125 yards in the 36-0 shutout last week. New York also found that big yards can be gained against Washington’s aggressive defense by running wide to the weak side, as Tiki Barber did on the way to 206 yards.

Reid has seen the tape of that game and has taken notes. The Eagles don’t run the ball much, but if they ever wanted to give Brian Westbrook a good chunk of carries, this is the week to do it.

“They might want to try to open up the run this week,” Daniels said, “knowing that we had problems last week.”

The Broncos, in a 49-21 win, revealed a Philadelphia offense that was vulnerable to the blitz early in the game and a defense that could be fooled by play-action passes.

Aware of those trends, the Redskins couldn’t pick a better week to unleash three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, who is working with the starters again after spending the first two months as an unhappy backup following knee surgery.

“LaVar has great big-play potential,” linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said. “I’d say he’s almost back to full speed.”

The bottom line is that these are two flawed teams trying to keep their playoff hopes intact by proving that last week was an aberration.

The one who is best at turning his team around will be a reasonable 5-3 at the midway point of the season; the other will have to climb over three teams in eight games to win the division.

“I think it’s going to be a defining moment for this team, for this season,” Washington quarterback Mark Brunell said.

“I’ll tell you, if we can get this one, against a very good football team, 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.”

AP-ES-11-03-05 1854EST


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