- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Another Sunday, another quarterback change for the Washington Redskins.
This one was reminiscent of the Oct.6 game at Tennessee: Starter Danny Wuerffel again went down with a sprained right shoulder with the Redskins losing, and rookie Patrick Ramsey played well in relief.
The differences were that Ramsey only had 24 minutes to work his magic yesterday, and that wasn't enough time. The Redskins' rally from a 17-point deficit fell short, resulting in a 27-21 loss to the visiting New York Giants at FedEx Field.
Ramsey, who completed 12 of 27 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, is expected to start not only Sunday's game against the Eagles in Philadelphia but the final two home games against the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.
"Danny's got his shoulder jammed up pretty good," Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. "He's probably out again. So we'll give Patrick the opportunity to finish it up for us. I was proud of Patrick coming in there and throwing some good balls. He played well again in relief.
"Hopefully in the starting role, he'll continue playing like he has in the backup role. Patrick stepped up in the pocket, bought a little time here and there. His ball gets there quickly. His fourth-down throw, his touchdown; he threw some real good ones."
Wuerffel, who was sacked on three of his final four plays, spent much of the game as a target of derision for fans. He failed to generate points on his first five series, fumbled after being sacked and threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted.
Wuerffel hit 13 of 19 passes for 159 yards but was sacked five times and produced three turnovers, the third coming when he was sacked by Cornelius Griffin with 9:21 left in the third quarter.
"I've had some bad fortune, but life has ups and downs," said Wuerffel, who missed six games after being injured against the Titans. "As I was getting hit, somehow I got picked up and my feet went above my head and I came down on my right shoulder. I feel like I sprained my rotator, which isn't as severe an injury as the last time when I tore some muscles deep in my trapezoid. I think I'll be back."
Whether or not Wuerffel returns, the job belongs to Ramsey again. For Ramsey, the team's first-round draft choice this year, the final three games represent a chance to perform well and go into training camp next summer as the starter.
"I want to win a game as a starter," said Ramsey, who was sacked 13 times and suffered eight turnovers in his losing starts against the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. "I want to win all three of them. That's my goal. I'll let next year take care of itself.
"I did some things well, but there were some things I could have done better. We didn't win, so I'm not really fired up about my performance. Not to take away from [the Giants and Titans], but the two games I started were against pretty good teams and I didn't play well. I don't think it has anything to do with a mindset. Now I'll learn as much as I can about Philly."
Rough day for Champ
Champ Bailey must have felt like he had a giant red and white bull's eye on his back yesterday. The Redskins cornerback and punt returner seemed to be right in the middle of every play that went wrong.
No play was more costly than Bailey's muffed catch on a third-quarter punt, a crucial turnover that killed all momentum the Redskins had gained.
The Redskins had just scored their only touchdown of the game and succeeded on a two-point conversion to cut the Giants' lead to 17-14. They then stuffed the Giants on three straight plays to bring out the punting unit.
Bailey called for a fair catch on Matt Allen's high, short kick, but he got a late break on the ball and let it slip through his hands. Kato Serwanga recovered for the Giants at the Redskins' 22-yard line. Two plays later, Tiki Barber scored from 1 yard out to give the Giants a 24-14 lead.
"I just misjudged it, thought the ball was going to be deeper than it was," Bailey said. "So I had to try to run up to get it. I just made a mistake and dropped it. It hurt us. They went right in and scored on us, two plays. It did hurt us."
Bailey, who only began returning punts four weeks ago after the Redskins released Jacquez Green, also fumbled a punt at Giants Stadium. But he said he's determined to continue in that position.
"I've forgotten all about [the muff] already," Bailey said. "I don't think about that stuff. It happened. I can't dwell on it. I know what I did wrong."
Bailey's troubles yesterday extended to his pass coverage as well. Giants quarterback Kerry Collins showed no fear in going right after Bailey. In the first half alone, Collins threw toward Bailey seven times; he completed six passes, two of them for touchdowns.
The biggest play came late in the second quarter, when Amani Toomer hauled in an underthrown, 29-yard touchdown pass that had Bailey turned around the wrong way.
"It's just timing and judgment," Bailey said. "I didn't see it. He saw it before I did, so he knew to slow down, go back and get it."
Good debut for kickers
After spending 12 weeks agonizing over their suspect kicking game, the Redskins emerged yesterday cautiously optimistic about newcomers Jose Cortez and Craig Jarrett.
Cortez, who was signed this week to replace kicker James Tuthill, was successful on two of three field-goal attempts. The former San Francisco 49er pushed a 43-yard kick wide right in the first quarter but made kicks of 24 and 44 yards later in the game.
"The [miss] was one of my best hits today," Cortez said. "It was solid and came off my foot really well. I just pushed the ball. I was just glad that I had another chance to redeem myself and come back."
Jarrett, a rookie punter who was signed after Bryan Barker suffered a broken nose last week against the Cowboys, averaged just 38 yards on three punts. However, two of those were downed inside the 20-yard line.
"I'd like to think that I hit the ball pretty well, but I really didn't," Jarrett said. "It was really coverage more than what I did."
Scary moment for Smith
Upon seeing Bruce Smith sack Collins in the third quarter yesterday, the crowd at FedEx Field let out a huge roar. But the stadium quickly turned silent as Smith lay on the ground writhing in pain and clutching his back.
Smith recorded his 192nd career sack on the play, leaving him six shy of Reggie White's NFL record. Smith hyperextended his lower back but was able to walk off the field. He returned to play in the fourth quarter.
"It felt like I got whiplashed," Smith said. "I saw Collins there, and I just tried to hit him with everything I had. And in the process, I got bent up in an unusual position. It was a pretty excruciating pain for me."
Better and best
Danny Wuerffel's 26-yard scramble in the second quarter represented the Redskins' longest run from scrimmage this season.
Wuerffel's record didn't last long. Stephen Davis ran 33 yards down the left sideline in the third quarter to set the new season high.
Strahan miffed
Giants lineman Michael Strahan was flagged for a rare defensive delay of game penalty late in the second quarter, allowing the Redskins a field goal attempt. Strahan was penalized for holding down Redskins guard Wilbert Brown as Washington tried to hurry up to run the next play.
Strahan, though, wasn't trying to keep Brown from getting back to the line of scrimmage. He was seeking revenge for what he felt was a late hit by Brown on Giants safety Shaun Williams earlier in the game.
Afterward, Strahan (who last year set the NFL single-season sacks record) didn't speak too kindly of Brown.
"If you want to be an idiot like that, then be treated like one," Strahan said. "He ain't good enough to be in the league long enough, anyways. I don't even know his name. I only know his number."
Big plays, worse mistakes
Washington's trio of young receivers starters Rod Gardner and Derrius Thompson and backup Darnerien McCants combined for 14 catches, 239 yards and a touchdown. However, Thompson and McCants each fumbled deep in New York territory, and McCants committed a foolish penalty that knocked the Redskins out of field goal range.
"It would've been fun to see what we could have done on that drive, but Darnerien didn't quite put the ball away and they slapped it out," Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. "That was very similar to what Derrius did in the first quarter. We're hoping those guys with a little experience can learn to protect the ball when they get tackled.
"We've got to get Darnerien straightened out on some things. He got another stupid penalty. He's a big, strong guy who can run and catch. But he's got to play smarter than he did today or we can't live with him much longer."
McCants, whose three catches for 41 yards topped his total of the previous five games, was well aware how costly his gaffes were. The first came at the end of a 12-yard catch to the New York 27 with 4:12 remaining, when he was tackled by ex-teammate Kato Serwanga.
"I was going down and Kato got the ball away from me," McCants said. "He's done that in the past [to other receivers]. It's real frustrating. We were on a good drive. It looked like we were going to score, and I coughed up the ball."
Earlier, McCants was penalized for taunting Giants safety Omar Stoutmire, nullifying 15 yards of a 28-yard reception by Thompson that had given Washington a first down on the New York 9. The infraction pushed the Redskins back to the 34, and they never got back in the red zone on that series.
"[Stoutmire] was trying to hurt me," McCants said. "He twisted me and grabbed my face mask. I lost my composure. I know it's football, but don't try to hurt me."
Thompson took little pleasure in his career-high six catches for 122 yards.
"All the other things don't matter when you fumble and hurt the team," said Thompson, who lost a fumble at the New York 22 on the third play of the second quarter. "We had a chance to put some points on the board on that drive. I didn't tuck the ball away. I never had a chance to. It was a quick throw and I was fighting for yards and the guy was on me right away."
Sweet revenge
Kato Serwanga was one of the Redskins' best special teams players last year, but he went on injured reserve this summer after blowing out a knee during training camp.
Ineligible to play again for the Redskins this season, he was cut on Nov. 27 when he was deemed fully healed. The Giants signed him on Wednesday. Yesterday, he not only forced McCants' critical fumble, but his recovery of Champ Bailey's muffed punt return set up a New York touchdown.
"It was weird coming in here, but I had fun," Serwanga said. "To be released was disappointing, but I trust myself. Fate does all it can and it all works out."
Serwanga said that on his strip of McCants he was "just trying to find the ball when I made the tackle." And on Bailey's miscue, "I just jumped in [the pile] and found it."
David Elfin and Mark Zuckerman

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