One of the greatest gifts for a sports fan is a good rivalry. Think Chicago’s North Side-South Side duel. Or think bigger — the Yankees-Red Sox clash. The list goes on, and in football, a number of the best pairings are within the NFC East.
Unfortunately for the Redskins and the Eagles, though, the conditions under which a matchup that was going stale returned to its prior heights was not exactly ideal.
The cast-out wideout
After being released by the Eagles in the offseason, Redskins wideout DeSean Jackson seemed glad to act as the instigator when he returned to town. Determined to burn his old team and get on his former teammates’ nerves — and those two were not exclusively paired — Washington’s star receiver started fights as soon as he stepped on the field.
Regardless of the circumstances under which he left Philly, he hasn’t exactly made a strong case against those who believe his attitude was a major reason Kelly gave him the boot.
But it also brings into question how Jackson can so badly miss the point. Sports fans believe his premature exit from the Eagles organization was about his lack of dedication to the team. His choice to play for a division rival gave some credence to those thoughts. In his first game against his former team, he flaunted about and made it all about himself. It was an impressive display of ignorance, one that is not uncommon to sports stars.
It took more than that to trigger a full-blown fight, though.
Baker’s massive hit
A number of Washington fans and anti-Philadelphia fans alike have tried to defend the actions of defensive lineman Chris Baker in the aftermath of the game. Watching the clip of his late hit on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles even once, though, instantly exposes the malice.
As Foles jogged toward the action while his teammates completed the tackle after a soon-to-be-reversed interception, he looked as defenseless as any receiver who is the recipient of an illegal hit. Add on the fact that Foles is a quarterback in an age when quarterbacks are more protected, and it’s ridiculous to say the offense was not punishable.
Love or hate Tom Brady and the rules surrounding him, but the Tuck Rule signified the beginning of an appreciation for the need to protect the quarterback by way of penalty. It’s part of the game now, and Baker should have been fully aware of that before he stepped onto the field.
While all these things contributed to the renewal of a rivalry, what ensued after the big hit was the clearest sign that this division matchup will continue to be heated.
Left tackle Jason Peters went straight after Baker, a move that makes him a hero in Philly and a hated retaliator in D.C. Though he was defending his quarterback, he was rightly ejected for his actions. That retaliation sent the two sides straight into a fight.
One can only imagine what kind of welcome Peters will receive from Washington fans in Week 16 when the two sides square off again. But even more, both sides will approach that matchup with an added measure of hostility.
DeSean Jackson may have started it all. Or, depending on your take of things, perhaps Chip Kelly started it all. Whatever the case, this blood-boiling Week 3 encounter has nudged up the temperature in the NFC East. The division race may not be close, but the events that have transpired will certainly perpetuate some hard feelings.
Dan Johnson is editor-in-chief of Three for Ten Sports and former managing editor of The Collegian at Grove City College.