- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

You win games however you can in the NFL, as Steve Spurrier is surely learning. If it takes your quarterback scrambling 24 yards for a first down in the last two minutes — a quarterback who isn’t exactly Michael Vick — so be it. Perfectly designed plays have a habit of turning into perfect messes with the final seconds ticking down.

It doesn’t matter that Patrick Ramsey didn’t execute the play the Ball Coach had in mind last night in the fourth quarter. All that matters is that, with his protection breaking down, Ramsey did what was necessary. He high-tailed it to the Jets’ 31 to move the Redskins into position for a 33-yard field goal by John Hall and a desperately needed 16-13 win.

Did I say desperately? I most certainly did. How would it have looked if the Redskins, after picking off four Jets free agents in the offseason, had lost this game? Like they still didn’t know what they were doing, that’s what.

But Ramsey spared his bosses a slew of hard questions with his impromptu dash — the kind of play that gives you a good feeling about a young quarterback. He didn’t panic and try to force a throw, as many second-year men might have. He found a way, which is what the better QBs do.

“When we threw in the second half, nothing good was happening,” said Spurrier. “We had an interception and a sack[-fumble]” and allowed the Jets to tie the game at 13-13. So Ramsey took an alternate route to victory — and everybody in Redskinsland is very glad.

Speaking of the Ball Coach, that was quite the interesting game plan he drew up. There was scant evidence of his heralded Fun ‘n’ Gun offense. No, the Washington attack was more reminiscent of the Gibbs era, with its just-right blend of power and pyrotechnics.

All preseason long, we wondered what Spurrier had in mind for Ramsey and Co. Unlike last year, when he held little back in exhibition games, this year he did the Dance of the Seven Veils. It’s hard to get much of a read on an offense that keeps running wide receiver screens.

But last night he started showing his hand, and it’s clear he’s evolving into a very different coach, one who seems to understand now that yards in pro football are usually gained in smaller increments than in college ball. Sure, you take some shots downfield when opportunities present themselves, but it’s much more of a grind-it-out game.

And so we had the Redskins pounding away early with Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts to create the occasional opening for Laveranues Coles. Coles showed he was worth every penny of Dan Snyder’s $35million investment, doing the best impersonation of Gary Clark since, well, Gary Clark. He got open over the middle, he got open deep — boy, is he going to be fun to watch.

You had to like, too, how many people Spurrier worked into the mix, like he was trying to hit every key on the piano. Zeron Flemister kept one drive going with a third-down grab. Robert Royal, the Redskins’ other largely anonymous tight end, set up a score with a 20-yard reception to the New York 4. Darnerian McCants caught a touchdown pass. Even Rock Cartwright, the aptly named blocking back, weighed in with a third-down conversion.

If there was a revelation, though, it was Betts — and what he potentially could mean to this offense. Canidate might be lighter on his feet, but between the tackles, where much of the game is played, he isn’t nearly as effective as Ledell. The latter, who packs about 20 more pounds, can knock a linebacker back and pick up those crucial yards, feet, inches that keep the chains moving. He’s the meat-and-potatoes back; Trung is the change-up runner you throw in there when you think the defense might be getting tired (as was the case in the late going).

Boss Snyder has to feel pretty good about his free agent pickups, in particular all the ex-Jets. Coles had 106 yards receiving in the first half alone, Randy Thomas helped clear the way for Betts, John Hall introduced himself to the locals with a 50-yard field goal (and later came through with the game-winner), and Chad Morton, a pedal-to-the-metal type, definitely put the thrill back in the kickoff return. He’s bound to break one sooner or later.

On defense, meanwhile, the no-name tackles held up. The Jets gained yardage with Curtis Martin, but they didn’t control the game with him. That alone is cause for celebration. Granted, the middle of the defensive front was collapsed on LaMont Jordan’s TD dive, but on the whole …

Rookie coordinator George Edwards can heave a big sigh this morning. He passed his first test. Let’s face it, if the defense underachieves this season, the first finger will be pointed squarely at him. But after the Jets marched 72 yards for a touchdown in their first series — aided and abetted by a senseless personal foul penalty against Ifeanyi Ohalete — the Washington D didn’t bend much. And it saved its best moments for when they were needed most, after turnovers. An interception and a sack-fumble in the second half, both in Redskins territory, led to just two New York field goals, which kept Washington in the game at 13-13. Had the Jets been able to stick the ball in the end zone either time, the evening might have had a different result.

But let’s not get too carried away. The Jets were after all, quarterbacked by Vinny Testaverde, who at 39 is as old as Lisa Guerrero. Vinny missed a few throws he might have made in the good old days, most notably a deep post to Santana Moss that had six written all over it (or at the very least given the Jets a first-and-goal). They came away with nothing on that possession.

And the Redskins came away with a win — over a team that made the playoffs the past two seasons. All in all, not a bad place to start.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide