- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

GREEN BAY, Wis. The Washington Redskins blew another opportunity yesterday to steal a road win from one of the NFL's better teams, fumbling away three key possessions after Green Bay Packers star quarterback Brett Favre was knocked from the game.
The Packers held on behind backup passer Doug Pederson for a 30-9 victory before 63,363 at Lambeau Field, handing Washington (2-4) its second straight loss. The Redskins, with their playoff potential rapidly fading, now must regroup for another tough opponent, 4-1 Indianapolis Sunday night.
Oh, and the quarterback controversy is back.
Coach Steve Spurrier reopened the question of who will start behind center after rookie Patrick Ramsey missed a number of throws and was sacked six times. Spurrier said veteran Shane Matthews, who was benched after playing fairly well in the first three games, practiced well last week and will get consideration to start this week.
"We'll look at it. Whichever quarterback helps us to try to beat Indianapolis, that's what we've got to do," Spurrier said. "If Patrick needs a little rest, which obviously at times it looked tonight [was the case]; if that's what we have to do to get his confidence back, that's what we'll have to do. We'll put the quarterback out that will help us win the game."
Ramsey's missed throws included four from the Packers' 12 or closer. His sparkling NFL debut at Tennessee is just two weeks old, but he acknowledged that his past two outings have been poor and that his starting status shouldn't necessarily be unquestioned.
"It's disappointing [to hear], but I didn't play well today," Ramsey said. "It's Coach Spurrier's decision, and I'm just going to try to keep getting better. I've got to play better than I did today. There's no way around that. If this is the consequence, so be it."
The rookie's struggles were at the crux of the Redskins' inability to come back from a deficit that was 17-6 at halftime, 17-9 for most of the third quarter and still just 20-9 as the middle of the fourth quarter approached.
Thus the game was very reminiscent of Sept. 22 at San Francisco, when Washington was down only a touchdown during most of the third quarter before losing 20-10. That day 49ers star quarterback Jeff Garcia was taken from the game with an illness that plagued most of the talented San Francisco squad, but Washington couldn't make enough plays to win.
Yesterday it was Favre, perhaps the best player of this generation, getting knocked from the game with a sprained knee by Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington.
Washington was mounting a potent drive as Packers trainers were determining that Favre could not return. But the Redskins settled for a field goal when guard David Loverne was flagged for holding on second-and-goal from the 3, cutting the deficit to eight points instead of potentially four. Ramsey and wide receiver Kevin Lockett then fumbled away the next two possessions as the Packers' offense struggled with Pederson.
Green Bay took advantage of the short field after Lockett's fumble to pick up a field goal for a 20-9 edge, and Ramsey fumbled again two plays into the next drive. That turnover led to the critical blow, running back Ahman Green's third rushing touchdown of the game.
"It's just another opportunity down the drain," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "We gave it a run, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
The Redskins played much of the second half without Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, who tweaked an ankle injury he suffered during the preseason. Samuels played down the significance of re-spraining his ankle, but those on the sideline said he initially seemed to be in extreme pain. And regardless, the setback continued a season in which he has played below his standard and battled nagging injuries to his groin and thigh, as well.
Despite Samuels' absence in the second half, the line's protection seemed to improve from the loss to New Orleans a week earlier, when Ramsey was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions. And the modestly improved protection came without right guard Brenden Stai, who was a late scratch (giving way to Wilbert Brown) because of tendinitis in his left knee.
Also on the positive side, Washington's defense turned in another capable performance, holding Green Bay to 243 yards (including only 100 after halftime). And the special teams stepped up from their disastrous effort against the Saints, when they yielded two touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns.
But the little plays once again undermined the Redskins. A missed fourth-and-1 in the second quarter set up a short field for a Packers field goal; kicker James Tuthill hit the upright on a 30-yard attempt in the third quarter (after nailing a 53-yarder in the second); and, most importantly, Washington simply couldn't stop the turnovers.
The Redskins lost four fumbles against the Packers while picking up just one, running their turnover differential in four losses to -12 (versus +4 in two wins).
"It just seems right now we can't get everything together," Lockett said. "This week our defense plays pretty well, and it's almost like we did what we did last week we turned the ball over. As an offense, we can't expect our defense to keep playing the way they are and keep turning the ball over and expect to win."
Spurrier didn't go into a tirade last night like he did after the loss to New Orleans. A week ago he questioned players' hearts and threatened changes that largely ended up not being made (he shuffled the receiving corps but defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and special teams coach Mike Stock kept their lineups intact).
"I'm not going to yell and scream like last week," Spurrier said yesterday. "A lot of guys played their hearts out."
But he said the process of "still trying to find out who our best players are" continues, which is why Ramsey's status is back up in the air. Spurrier even acknowledged that some of his assistants thought Matthews should have gotten a shot yesterday, but the coach wanted to give Ramsey "every opportunity." He tersely disputed that he is "fiddling" with the lineup.
"I'm not fiddling," Spurrier said. "You give me an All-Pro quarterback, and I won't have to fiddle around. We've got to try to put the best players out there to win the game. I don't like doing this, but we're in that situation."

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