- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

A surprising rally and wild first half for the Washington Redskins yesterday gave way to an unsurprising result and plain truth: You can't make that many mistakes and win.
The Redskins committed five turnovers including four interceptions by rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey in his first start and gave up two touchdowns on special teams and a handful of big plays on defense to let a 43-27 decision slip away to the New Orleans Saints before 80,768 at FedEx Field.
Coach Steve Spurrier was incensed by his team's performance, which dropped Washington (2-3) below .500 heading into a daunting road game at Green Bay and marked the club's fifth loss in its past seven home games.
"As a team we look like we don't care if we win the game or not," Spurrier said. "It's pitiful watching us play right now. We'll try to make some corrections. We'll try to find the guys who want to bust their tail and play their assignments. Those that don't we've got to make changes if we can't get them to play and play disciplined.
"Obviously we looked like a very poorly coached team offense, defense and special teams. Until we can get some consistent effort, discipline and responsibility, we'll struggle all year."
The loss came a week after the Redskins sparked a lackluster season with a crucial win at Tennessee. As Ramsey sparkled in his debut that day, Washington seemed like it had real direction. Some of that promise returned yesterday as the Redskins overcame four first-quarter turnovers (including three picks by Ramsey) and a 20-0 deficit, but ultimately their potential remains very much in doubt.
Washington drew as close as 26-21 in the closing minutes of the first half but quickly gave back a field goal before halftime and then an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown less than two minutes into the third quarter. Saints return man Michael Lewis also scored on a 90-yard kickoff runback in the second quarter and finished with 356 all-purpose yards to severely hamper the Redskins' attempt to rally.
"The offense was fighting hard, defense was fighting hard, and special teams just didn't give our team a chance today," said linebacker Eddie Mason, a key figure on a number of special teams units. "That's the most frustrating part, because had we stopped those two [touchdowns], what would have happened? You now have to go home and think about, what if?"
Ramsey finished with an uneven performance in his first game before a home crowd eager to adopt him as the franchise's next great quarterback. He overcame his disastrous first quarter to pass for 320 yards and a touchdown, but his bad reads and misthrown passes didn't vanish in the second half.
Besides Ramsey's four interceptions, he had at least four throws that would have been picked off if not for drops or penalties and three of those came in the third quarter when Washington was trying to make another rally from a double-digit deficit.
"Patrick got off to a very rough start," Spurrier said. "After that he hung in there, did the best he could. He hit a few here and there, but he played about like a rookie quarterback, I guess."
But the coach made it clear Ramsey will remain his starter, saying: "He's going to play through it. Yeah, we're going to stick with him."
Severely limiting Ramsey's chances for success was a suspect performance by the offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels once again played poorly, and the interior of right guard Brenden Stai, center Larry Moore and left guard Wilbert Brown (a first-time NFL starter in place of injured David Loverne) was ravaged by Saints defensive tackles Grady Jackson and Norman Hand. Ramsey, however, shouldered full responsibility.
"You can probably throw blame around all you want to, but ultimately I threw the ball," Ramsey said. "I just have to learn how to do it more efficiently."
Washington's defense was extremely sharp in the early going, limiting New Orleans to a pair of field goals and a 6-0 lead after Ramsey's first two interceptions put the Saints at Washington's 5- and 9-yard lines. It looked like the unit was picking up where it left off the week before at Tennessee, when it finally seemed to grasp Marvin Lewis' scheme.
But the defense ultimately was susceptible to the big play such as a first-quarter touchdown reception by Joe Horn on third-and-goal from the 17, or a 58-yard catch by Lewis on third-and-12 with 37 seconds left in the first half, which set up a field goal that made it 29-21 at halftime.
The Saints' crushing blow probably came after the second half's opening drive. Ramsey took one of his seven sacks of the day on second down and the Redskins were forced to punt from their 38. Lewis fielded the ball on a bounce and ran to his right along a well-formed wall, and no Redskin really had a shot to bring him down.
The touchdown gave New Orleans a 36-21 lead and Washington didn't threaten to score until after Ramsey had thrown another interception (with 1:56 left in the third quarter), the Saints had picked up another big play (a 41-yard jump ball to Horn) and the Redskins had fallen behind even further, 43-21 (on an early third-quarter, 31-yard touchdown pass to Jake Reed on big surprise third-and-13).
"We could have won that game," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "Even with everything that happened in the first quarter of that game, we still could have won that game. I'm taking that with me and we're going to get better for the next week. We've got Green Bay. I can't sit here and worry about what New Orleans did."


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