- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

GREEN BAY, Wis.
The Redskins actually went into the fourth quarter yesterday with a chance to beat the Packers in Green Bay. Who would have dreamed that a week ago, after the tongue-lashing Steve Spurrier gave his team following the loss to New Orleans?
If Kevin Lockett hadn't fumbled at the Washington 39 with 12:52 left and the Redskins offense beginning to move again there's no telling what would have happened in this game. Brett Favre was in the locker room at that point, out for the rest of the afternoon with a sprained knee, and the Green Bay offense was making little headway without him. The Packers might have had the lead, 17-9, but their grip on it didn't seem all that secure.
As Patrick Ramsey said afterward, "Anybody could see that game was there for the taking."
Lockett did fumble, though. And then Fred Smoot couldn't hang on to an interception in the end zone. And then Ryan Longwell kicked a field goal. And then Green Bay did what Green Bay was supposed to do, pulling away to a 30-9 victory at Lambeau Field.
Still, it was a far cry from last year's 37-0 blowout on "Monday Night Football." The Packers, coming off a big win in New England over the defending Super Bowl champs, had their hands full for most of the day. And had their opponents not had a rookie quarterback, a kid starting just his second NFL game, the outcome might have been different.
But that's the risk you take when you start a young QB. You risk losing games you might have won with somebody more experienced but less physically talented. Unlike the Saints game, in which Ramsey was rushed unmercifully, "I felt like I had more of a chance to make some plays today," he said. The two that stood out were passes to Rod Gardner in the back of the end zone, both of which sailed over the receiver's head. If either one connects, things are even more interesting in the fourth quarter.
"They were open," said Gardner. "We just couldn't complete 'em. That's where we are as an offense right now."
Not for long, perhaps. Spurrier gave off strong signals that another quarterback change was in the offing, that maybe it was time to go back to Shane Matthews. He's worried, and rightly so, that Ramsey's confidence could be damaged if he continues to play. He also doesn't want to let any more games like yesterday's slip away. You have to understand: A 2-4 record is unfamiliar turf for the Ballcoach. He's kind of grasping at straws here, trying anything that might get the Redskins headed in the right direction.
"I don't like doing this," he said, "but we're in that situation."
The Redskins' game plan for the Packers was much saner than the one for the Saints. They didn't ask nearly as much of Ramsey and were content to run the ball on 34 of 58 plays. Receiver Derrius Thompson even carried four times (and picked up 48 yards). Anything to take some of the pressure off the rookie.
The passes Spurrier did call were often shorter routes so Ramsey wouldn't have to hold the ball as long. But you have to wonder if the beating Patrick took in the New Orleans game didn't contribute to his subpar performance against the Pack. He just didn't look very comfortable in the pocket and seemed to rush some throws.
"I don't know if we're expecting too much of him right now," Spurrier said. "We'll look at it."
There was also a strange sequence midway through the second quarter when Ramsey called three timeouts in the space of five plays. The drive ended in a field goal, but he didn't exactly come across as a Quarterback in Control. More like somebody fresh out of college, trying to decide which end is up.
The results weren't pretty 10 of 24 passing for 92 net yards, with four fumbles (three coming on sacks, the other when the ball slipped out of his hand). And for the second time in six games, Spurrier's offense didn't produce a touchdown. You aren't going to win too often when you can't put the ball in the end zone.
The painful truth, though, is that giving the starting job back to Matthews might not make that big a difference for the offense. Oh, he'll probably throw the ball to the right receiver more than Ramsey will, but he'll probably also get sacked more because he's less elusive. You haven't forgotten, have you, the working over he got from the 49ers in Week 3? Well, it's not like the offensive line is blocking a whole lot better now than it was then. (And with Chris Samuels reinjuring his ankle yesterday, things could get worse.)
What the Redskins need to take comfort in right now are the little victories, the small successes. Like hanging with the Packers for more than three quarters or shutting down the ever-dangerous Ahman Green in the second half. There was progress made yesterday in some areas, at least. There just wasn't enough of it to produce the win they so desperately need.

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