- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001


The Washington Redskins finally orchestrated several offensive series with rhythm and precision last night. Too bad they came from backup quarterback Tony Banks after starter Jeff George generated just one first down in four series of work.
Banks, the former Dallas Cowboys starter who signed with Washington just a week ago, guided scoring drives of 72 yards in the first half and 80 and 63 in the second. They comprised Washington's highlights as the club struggled early in a 27-25 win over the Cleveland Browns before 67,014 at FedEx Field.
The Redskins (1-2) trailed 14-0 late in the second quarter and 14-7 after the first half's battle of first-string units. It was their best preseason performance under new coach Marty Schottenheimer after opening losses by a combined 47-6. Cleveland moved to 2-1 in its first season under Butch Davis.
George, seeing his first action after being sidelined most of training camp with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, completed just three of seven passes for 17 yards. Washington was unable to gain a first down in his first three possessions; finally, the team's fourth drive began with an 11-yard handoff to fullback Donnell Bennett.
"I was just a little rusty," George said. "I missed a couple. The game wasn't faster. It was just [a matter of] running around. Guys have to get used to me. Next week will be better."
Banks hit 12 of 15 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Using a limited playbook based on his work in practice last week, Banks showed elusiveness in the pocket and a strong arm two physical qualities for which he is well-known. His performance inspired both the crowd and his teammates.
"It doesn't surprise me how I was throwing the football," Banks said. "The hardest part was calling plays. I might not know who they are, but I know where they are."
After the game Schottenheimer remained firm that there will be no quarterback controversy. Asked if there is any way for Banks to play well enough to compete for the starting job, the coach replied: "N. O. Does that surprise you?"
George is expected to play about a half in Thursday's preseason finale at New England, Schottenheimer said. The quarterback suffered no setbacks in his comeback from the shoulder injury. Among other nicks, the Redskins got scares on a mild concussion to cornerback Donovan Greer and a mild MCL sprain to linebacker Eddie Mason.
The contest ended with a flurry after Redskins kicker Brett Conway hit a 19-yard field goal with 4:06 remaining for a 20-17 lead. Cornerback Lloyd Harrison followed with a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:55 left, and Cleveland responded with a 49-yard scoring pass from Kelly Holcombe to running back Jamel White. A two-point conversion by rusher Benjamin Gay closed the scoring.
"We did our job," Schottenheimer said. "We're in the entertainment business; we kept it entertaining. [But] it's a little hard on the old coach. Notwithstanding the last two weeks we do like to be successful and win. It was a determined effort by our football team."
Tailback Ki-Jana Carter started in place of Stephen Davis, who has sprained toes and was absent because he was subpoenaed as a witness in an out-of-town court case. Carter netted just four yards on seven attempts in the first half but looked far better in the second, picking up 54 yards on a screen pass from Banks midway through the third quarter. He rushed for 24 yards on 12 carries and had three catches for 63 yards.
The Redskins' starting offensive line, playing without injured left tackle Chris Samuels (strained rib muscle), yielded three sacks and enough Cleveland pressure to undermine its early offensive efforts. The first-string defense, still without star right end Bruce Smith (bruised shoulder), played fair overall but gave up too many pivotal plays.
Washington finished the first half with six first downs and 80 total yards and just one first down and 23 yards before Banks' touchdown drive. The scoring possession ended with 1:07 left in the half, when Banks hit Bennett for the team's first passing touchdown and second overall touchdown of the preseason.
It was Banks' third series after replacing George early in the second quarter. His first two possessions went three-and-out, but he completed five of six passes (including a spike to stop the clock) on the 72-yard scoring drive that began with 1:49 left. Bennett scored the 2-yard touchdown on a play-action dump to the right flat.
The Browns nearly answered in the half's final seconds, but Phil Dawson missed a pair of field goal attempts from 54 yards. His first fell short but Schottenheimer had called time out (to ice Dawson) just before the snap; the second flew wide left.
Banks then guided an 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that was sparked by Carter's big screen reception and capped by a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Walter Rasby. And Banks moved Washington 63 yards for a 30-yard Conway field goal with 14:53 left in the fourth quarter, putting the Redskins up 17-14. Fullback Bryan Johnson dropped a pass on third-and-2 that could have kept the possession alive.
Dawson responded with a 33-yard field goal to tie the game 17-17 with 8:29 left. Tight end O.J. Santiago had a 44-yard reception that he broke because Redskins safeties Ifeanyi Ohalete and Josh Symonette simultaneously hit and failed to tackle him.
Washington's scoring followed the Browns' 14-0 lead. Cleveland's second touchdown drive came after conversions of third-and-22, third-and-9 and third-and-13, all on nice plays by Browns quarterback Tim Couch (14-for-23, 163 yards, one touchdown, one interception). Rookie receiver Quincy Morgan scored on a 2-yard end-around in which LaVar Arrington had the outside edge but couldn't stop the play.
The Browns' first score came with 7:39 left in the first quarter, putting them up 7-0 when tight end Rickey Dudley caught a 15-yard pass from Couch. Strong safety Sam Shade was in coverage on the play but he fell, leaving Dudley wide-open. The 72-yard drive needed just six plays, as former Redskins fullback Mike Sellers made a pretty 19-yard grab on a pass thrown behind him and Couch scrambled for 18 yards.

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