DeSean Jackson celebrates Jeremy Maclin's touchdown in the second quarter. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

LANDOVER, Md. -- Two franchises passed each other in the night, rapidly if not necessarily permanently, because there is no such thing as permanently, not in the NFL, not in 2010.

It really was just one game.

But, man, what a game.

On the day when the Washington Redskins gave Donovan McNabb a $78 million contract extension, the Eagles scored the second-most points in the history of the franchise in a 59-28 bludgeoning administered by Michael Vick at FedEx Field.

Vick hit DeSean Jackson with an 88-yard touchdown strike on the Eagles’ first play from scrimmage, and that was just the beginning. The Eagles led by 35-0 early in the second quarter and 45-14 at the half. Along the way, Vick did something that no quarterback in the league has done, at least since 1960: he threw for four touchdowns, ran for two touchdowns, threw for more than 300 yards and ran for at least 80 yards.

It was a historic stomping. When Kevin Kolb finally replaced Vick with only 2:13 left in the game, here were the quarterback’s numbers: 20-for-28 for 333 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 150.7. Vick also ran eight times for 80 yards and two more touchdowns. It was savage mastery.

Only a 64-0 win by the 1934 Eagles over the Cincinnati Reds -- yes, those Cincinnati Reds -- outpaced the 59 points scored by the Eagles in this one. Still, beneath all of the fireworks, was an underlying question that both franchises have had to answer this season. And while it would be absurd to judge the next few seasons based upon one outrageous night, this night and this game will always serve as a kind of know-it-all shorthand if it continues to trend this way.

Each team was offered a choice: stability or ability?

The Eagles chose ability.

The Redskins chose stability.

That McNabb was in the middle of both decisions, at least for a while, will keep this story alive for years to come, it would appear. Now that the Redskins have given McNabb this 5-year mega-extension -- and done it 2 weeks after McNabb was benched with 2 minutes left in a winnable game -- the strands of this plot will be years in the untangling.

But the truth is, both teams -- guided by their histories and their desires -- looked at the risk-reward calculus and made decisions that will potentially govern their respective franchises for years to come.

The Eagles chose ability.

The Redskins chose stability.

First when they went to Kevin Kolb, and then again when they went to Vick, the Eagles chose ability, period. In the process, they said goodbye to the player who many regard as the best quarterback in the history of the franchise. Then, later, they threw away a succession plan that was months in the making and replaced Kolb with Vick. Especially in that case, it was all about who was the better player at the moment. It seems obvious now, but nobody really knew it as late as Labor Day. Or, well, put it this way: if the Eagles knew, they weren’t letting on.

Contrast this with what the Redskins did by extending McNabb. They clearly chose stability. McNabb can still play, but his best years are behind him. He is not a player who can lift a team anymore. But the Redskins are a franchise that has seen so much change over the years, and that has been forever chasing its tail, and now -- for better or for worse -- they have committed to several more years of No. 5. They now will enter a desperate race to improve the team around McNabb enough to be a factor in the playoffs while McNabb himself still has the ability to be a factor in the playoffs. The truth is, they might not make it.

The Eagles’ decision has left them with Vick, incandescent and leading a team that is suddenly a pretty intriguing 6-3, with a Sunday night game against the New York Giants looming. The Redskins’ decision has left them with a veteran leader who will need whatever leadership skills he can muster to keep a 4-5 team from beginning the long slide down. But what can McNabb realistically do? He threw two touchdown passes and three interceptions and was 0-for-10 trying to convert on third down against the Eagles.

When it was over, Eagles fans left with visions of what might be. Redskins fans left wondering what they have gotten themselves into. Both, though, seem to have defined a new path as they passed in the night.