- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

John Hall was asked earlier this week how much he would relish the opportunity to line up for a game-winning field goal against his former team.

“That would be great,” the former New York Jet and current Washington Redskin said. “It would be even greater to win by six or seven touchdowns.”

Sorry, John. You’ll just have to settle for a game-winning kick in one of the franchise’s most significant victories in several years.

As if pulled out of some Hollywood script, Hall indeed drilled a game-winner in his Redskins debut. His 33-yard field goal with five seconds to play last night lifted Washington to a dramatic 16-13 season-opening win over the Jets, a made-for-TV finish to a made-for-TV football game.

Hall’s picture-perfect kick, which capped a stellar two-minute drive by second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey, lifted Washington to victory in a much-hyped opener to the NFL season and sent the FedEx Field crowd of 85,420 into a frenzy.

“We came through when we had to, and that is what is important,” Ramsey said. “We turned it on, were able to get down there at the end and John made a great field goal to win the game.”

After stopping the Jets’ potential game-winning drive and forcing a punt, the Redskins took over at their 39, with 2:16 to play. Within seconds, they were already in field goal range, thanks not to Ramsey’s arm, but his feet.

Facing second-and-4 at his 45, Ramsey was pressured out of the pocket, ran to his left, waited for a block and scrambled 24 yards down the sideline to the New York 31.

Coach Steve Spurrier took no chances after that. He called three straight running plays before he sent Hall out to attempt the game-winner. That it came against his old teammates made it only sweeter.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out,” Hall said. “It was a big game, a pretty hyped game. It’s great to win.”

Hall’s third field goal in as many attempts was just another sign that these are, in every sense, the new-look Redskins.

For the first time anyone could remember, Washington came out dressed in white jerseys and pants (a decision Spurrier said was made by the players). The Fun ‘n’ Gun Redskins plodded their way through three lengthy ball-control scoring drives. The potentially suspect run defense shut down one of the game’s most reliable running backs, holding new York’s Curtis Martin to 48 yards on 14 carries. And new star receiver, former Jet Laveranues Coles, proved he was worth his $13 million signing bonus by racking up 105 yards on five catches, all in the first half.

“It just goes to show,” Coles said in his first comments in a week, “sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.”

But perhaps most importantly, for the first time in a long time, the Redskins rose to the occasion in a big game.

“It sets the tone for the whole season,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “It’s good for us to get this win, especially on national TV and all that.”

As satisfying as the victory was, it could have come with far more ease.

After a near-flawless first half in which they scored on their first three offensive drives and went into the locker room with a 13-7 lead, the Redskins sputtered in the second half and let the Jets hang around long enough to get back in the game.

Ramsey, who sparkled in his first half in the national spotlight with 12 completions in 13 attempts for 156 yards, looked rattled in the second half. The second-year signal-caller was intercepted by Donnie Abraham on his first pass of the third quarter, then fumbled the ball away the first time he dropped back in the fourth quarter.

New York took advantage of the blunders, converting the pair of turnovers into a pair of Doug Brien field goals. The latter of the two, a 41-yarder, tied the game 13-13 and set the stage for a dramatic finish.

Spurrier couldn’t have asked for a much more crisp, more complete effort in the first half. The Redskins ran three offensive series through the game’s first 29 minutes; each lasted more than 10 plays and each resulted in a score.

Hall capped the game-opening series when he drilled a 50-yard field goal on his first attempt as a Redskin. The Jets responded with a mammoth drive of their own, marching 72 yards on 14 plays, with Lamont Jordan leaping over on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to put New York ahead 7-3.

Never to be outdone by their opponents, the Redskins came right back with a 14-play, 74-yard drive of their own, spanning an astounding 8:34. Reserve running back Ladell Betts, injecting a spark that was mostly absent with starter Trung Canidate in the game, picked up first downs on his first two carries and narrowly converted a fourth-and-1. On third-and-goal, Ramsey stepped up in the pocket and found Darnerien McCants alone in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.

Backed up at his 15 at the start of the third scoring drive, Ramsey ducked under would-be sacker Mo Lewis and then hit a spinning Coles down the right sideline for a 48-yard gain. Two plays later, Ramsey and Coles connected again on what is quickly becoming their bread-and-butter and gained 22 yards over the middle. This particular one was Coles’ fifth reception of the night and catapulted him over the 100-yard mark with four minutes still remaining in the first half.

However, the drive fizzled inside the red zone and Washington had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Hall which made it 13-7.

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