- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

The boos began when the Washington Redskins fell behind by 17 points in the second quarter. Fans then chanted for backup Patrick Ramsey to enter the game.

It was Halloween in Landover, but this nightmare was all too real for Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell.

“You never want it to happen,” Brunell said of the fans’ reaction. “You certainly hear it. It’s frustrating because you’re just not going to be perfect. You’re not going to hit every throw. I missed a couple to Laveranues [Coles] across the middle, and you can’t miss those. Those third downs were key. That just can’t happen.”

But Brunell played well enough in the second half of the Redskins’ 28-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers — a controversial penalty negated a touchdown pass that would have put the Redskins ahead with 2:35 to play — to remain the starter for coach Joe Gibbs. He finished 25 of 44 for 218 yards and two touchdowns as well as two interceptions.

“In the second half, Mark had a courageous performance,” Gibbs said. “He made a bunch of plays coming out of the pocket. Down at the goal line, he picked up the third receiver and found him for the touchdown. He hung in there on the blitz with Clinton [Portis]. I thought he made the game-winning throw there.”

Gibbs earlier this season stuck with Brunell through a four-game losing streak and consecutive games of less than 100 yards passing. The 34-year-old quarterback began yesterday ranked last in the league in completion percentage (51.2) and average gain per pass (5.43 yards).

“We need to get everything else on offense working together and Mark can make plays to win games for us,” said Gibbs, who this winter hand-picked Brunell as his quarterback.

It was Brunell’s competition, Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who made those plays yesterday.

At 35 and with an injured passing hand, the three-time NFL Most Valuable Player still can win games nearly single-handedly.

Favre completed three passes longer than 40 yards in the first half yesterday — however, he also threw three interceptions in the game — to stake the Packers to a lead they never relinquished.

Brunell, on the other hand, no longer is the dynamic player who led the Jacksonville Jaguars to two AFC Championship games and was voted to the 1996 and ‘97 Pro Bowl.

This season, he has hit just two of the game-breaking throws of the kind Favre made yesterday.

But the strong-armed but erratic Ramsey and Brunell’s other teammates still support their struggling starter.

“I don’t think it’s about me,” said Ramsey of the calls for him to play. “The second guy is always popular when nothing’s going well. I don’t support in any way what the fans were doing. Mark played his heart out. He played a good game. He deserves respect.”

Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, who allowed one of the four sacks of Brunell yesterday, also refused to join the anti-Brunell chorus.

“People want to blame Brunell for a lot of different things, but we all can play better, starting with the line,” Samuels said. “He got hit quite a few times. It’s not just one guy.”

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