- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

CARDINALS 16, REDSKINS 15

TEMPE, Ariz. New quarterback, same problems.

Despite a solid debut by quarterback Jeff George, the Washington Redskins employed the same tired formula that threatens to derail their anticipated journey to the Super Bowl. Piling up yards but not points, and gift-wrapping every one of the Arizona Cardinals' points, the Redskins suffered a 16-15 loss yesterday before 52,244 at Sun Devil Stadium.

Redskins running back Stephen Davis fumbled on the goal line, resulting in a 103-yard touchdown return. George threw an interception that set up a field goal. The kickoff coverage yielded a 71-yard return that set up the deciding touchdown. And kicker Kris Heppner missed two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals' 16 easy points, compensating for a paltry 178 yards of offense, came just six days after the Redskins gave the Tennessee Titans a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 27-21 loss.

"I don't care who you play, where you play or when you play," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "You can't make those kinds of errors and expect to win."

For what it's worth, Washington (6-4) wasn't playing much. The Cardinals (3-6) entered already out of the playoff picture and on their second coach of the season. They left with interim coach Dave McGinnis hugging security guards and shouting to fans, who may have attended one of the franchise's last games here if a stadium vote doesn't pass tomorrow.

The Redskins now carry a two-game losing streak into the 15-day layoff for the open date. Washington trails the New York Giants (7-2) by 1 and 1/2 games in the NFC East, and next plays at the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams on Nov. 20.

George, the $18.25 million backup who replaced injured Pro Bowl passer Brad Johnson, guided an offense that gained season-highs of 431 yards and 27 first downs. George was harsh on the unit afterward, saying there was no excuse for not matching another solid game by Washington's defense.

"We didn't outplay nobody," George said when told of the teams' 253-yard discrepancy. "We got beat. I'm sick of hearing 'outplayed.' The bottom line is wins and losses. We didn't make plays. I didn't make plays. Other guys didn't make plays. You have got to score touchdowns. You can't expect to be a Super Bowl-quality team and kick field goals every doggone time."

George hit 20 of 39 passes for 276 yards with two interceptions one on a meaningless Hail Mary to end the first half. Davis gained 124 yards on 30 carries, another dominant effort in another outstanding season.

Of course, as a variety of Redskins acknowledged, those performances and 25 cents will buy you a bag of chips if you can't score and your errors help your opponent to.

"We have to realize that wins just don't happen," Redskins fullback Larry Centers said. "We have to go out and make them happen. We have to do the fundamentals. We're failing in that area."

The Redskins' final drive moved just 14 yards before George threw four straight incompletions. The final three were intended for wide receiver Albert Connell, who finished with one catch. Cardinals linebacker Ray Thompson tipped the last attempt as free safety Kwamie Lassiter clocked Connell, and Arizona kneeled twice to run out the final 58 seconds.

Washington's two other possessions of the fourth quarter resulted in Heppner's misses. The first was wide left from 51 yards with 11:36 remaining; the second wide right from 33 yards with 5:01 to go. Davis set up the former with a 32-yard run on which he sprained his wrist. He returned to play the next series.

Heppner did make his first three field goals, the third ending a drive that consumed 9:01 of the third quarter. Washington moved at will until it got to first-and-goal at the 7. Davis then was stuffed twice (actually three times, including a Cardinals penalty), and George absorbed a 9-yard sack on third-and-goal. Heppner's 29-yarder made it 16-15.

Cardinals wide receiver MarTay Jenkins had the 71-yard kickoff return on the opening play of the second half. Jenkins bounced from a mass in the middle and finally was pushed out of bounds by Champ Bailey. Three plays later, running back Michael Pittman scored on a 7-yard run. Quarterback Jake Plummer was sacked on the two-point conversion and the Cardinals led 16-12.

Jenkins' big return followed the 69-yard punt return by Titans wide receiver Derrick Mason last Monday. Jenkins also had a 40-yarder in the third quarter, and on the day he averaged 36.6 yards.

The Cardinals erred in attempting a 56-yard field goal with 3:52 left in the first half, helping set up a 28-yard field goal by Heppner that made it 12-10 at halftime. The Redskins managed just one first down on their drive, a 39-yard screen pass to Davis the longest catch of his career.

Early in the second quarter, Arizona drove to Washington's 8 before Plummer dropped a snap and Dana Stubblefield recovered. The Redskins went 91 yards for a 1-yard touchdown run by Davis, though a bad snap by Joe Zelenka kept Heppner from kicking the extra point. Davis' touchdown, his 10th of the season, pulled Washington within a point at 10-9.

A 23-yard screen pass to Davis propelled the Redskins' third possession, which went 55 yards and ended with a 35-yard field goal by Heppner, cutting Arizona's lead to 10-3.

George's first interception gave the Redskins two turnovers in as many drives. Linebacker Ronald McKinnon tipped the pass intended for tight end Stephen Alexander and cornerback Aeneas Williams grabbed it. The Cardinals needed just seven yards for former Redskin Cary Blanchard to kick a 30-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.

The Redskins' opening drive went 67 yards in six plays before Davis' goal-line fumble. It appeared that Washington would score its fifth touchdown of the season on an opening drive. Instead, Davis lost the ball on an attempt up the middle, and Williams scooped it up. His 103-yard return up the left sideline was the second-longest in NFL history, trailing only Jack Tatum's 104-yarder on Sept. 24, 1972.

In the Redskins' loss to Tennessee, Titans cornerback Samari Rolle intercepted a pass by Johnson as the first half expired, then ran it back 81 yards.

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