- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001


FOXBORO, Mass. The Washington Redskins can only hope that the conventional wisdom about preseason games is true: that the exhibitions are essentially meaningless and that the finales are the most insignificant of all.
The Redskins certainly played that way last night. Ending a poor first exhibition season under coach Marty Schottenheimer with the worst performance yet, Washington's starters staked the club to a 14-point deficit which easily could have been worse en route to a 33-13 loss to the New England Patriots before 48,911 at Foxboro Stadium.
The Redskins (1-3) played without several key starters: defensive end Bruce Smith (shoulder), cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) and tackle Chris Samuels (back), all of whom could return for the Sept. 9 opener at San Diego. But Washington still fell far short as it tried to continue its progress from last week's come-from-behind victory over the Cleveland Browns.
The Redskins trailed 17-10 at halftime last night, giving them a 75-23 cumulative deficit in the preseason's first halves. A Washington touchdown with eight seconds left in the half, combined with a missed field goal by the Patriots (3-1) and an overturned safety call, slightly tempered the embarrassment during the battle of first-string units.
"We had a couple of occasions in the first half where we self-destructed. As I said, you can't do that in the National Football League," Schottenheimer said. "I have nothing to be worried about. We got to get ourselves healthy and get ready to play San Diego.
"[The preseason] all depends on your perspective… . We took a step back in this game, particularly in the second half, but I think I know why. And that will be resolved in the near future."
It was another spotty as well as physically painful night for quarterback Jeff George, who played his first extended minutes after a rough debut last week against the Cleveland Browns.
George, sidelined through much of training camp with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, completed 10 of 18 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But those numbers were slightly misleading; 57 of his passing yards came on the touchdown drive that began with 46 seconds left in the half, after New England had taken a commanding 17-3 lead.
The performance followed George's poor outing last week, which lasted just a quarter: 3-for-7 for 17 yards. Second-string passer Tony Banks went 6-for-13 for 50 yards, an ordinary performance following last week, when he went 12-for-15 for 177 yards and two TDs.
"I think [George] is going to fine there," Schottenheimer said. "We've got to look at the tape. The one thing I noticed is that we did no preparing for this defensive front, which is a 3-4, and that's my fault."
Washington's biggest concern against the Patriots was its starting offensive line, which included undrafted rookie David Brandt at right guard and continued to sub Matt Campbell for Samuels at left tackle. The unit surrendered three sacks two of which resulted in fumbles by George and its poor play led to an intentional grounding call and a variety of throw-aways.
Washington was lucky George was not seriously injured, but it didn't escape totally unscathed. Linebacker Robert Jones, making his first start in the battle for the middle job against Kevin Mitchell, suffered a mild knee sprain in the second half.
The Redskins generated just 32 yards and two first downs before their sudden, nothing-to-lose flurry at the end of the first half. And Washington closed the first quarter with 8 yards and no first downs despite a 3-0 lead.
That slight edge came when Redskins defensive end Marco Coleman forced a fumble by Patriots running back J.R. Redmond. New England challenged the call but was overruled. Washington drove 5 yards for a 47-yard field goal by Brett Conway with 4:23 left in the first quarter.
The Redskins' next offensive play was whistled for a safety when George dumped a pass toward his offensive lineman while being chased into the end zone. But replay placed the intentional grounding call at the 1, rather than in the end zone, and Washington punted three plays later.
New England's Adam Vinatieri missed a 49-yard field goal with 11:10 left in the half, but the Patriots quickly got another opportunity when George, one play after completing a 17-yard pass to rookie Rod Gardner, overthrew Gardner deep for an interception by cornerback Terrell Buckley.
New England drove 66 yards in eight plays, with quarterback Drew Bledsoe making several big completions, including a 22-yard scoring pass to receiver David Patten. On the play the Patriots picked up Washington's blitz and Patten found a large seam in the zone coverage.
The score gave New England a 7-3 lead with 6:14 left in the half, and the Patriots quickly got the ball back when defensive end Roman Phifer nailed George on the blind side and forced and recovered a fumble. Five plays later running back Antowain Smith cut inside for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-3 Patriots edge.
Phifer caught George and forced another fumble four plays later, with linebacker Mike Vrabel this time recovering. The Patriots drove 12 yards and kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 17-3 lead with 46 seconds remaining.
George then led his first scoring drive of the preseason. After being nailed on a second-and-10 incompletion, he rifled a 36-yard completion to receiver Michael Westbrook and followed it two plays later with a 4-yard touchdown toss to receiver Kevin Lockett. The score left Washington behind a misleading 17-10.
Conway tacked on a 27-yard field goal on Washington's first drive of the second half, but Vinatieri added field goals of 50 and 52 yards before running back Kevin Faulk put New England up 30-13 and ended any chance of a Redskins comeback with a 54-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

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