- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Minutes after yesterday's big win, Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier took a slight detour on the way to his team's locker room at the Coliseum. He smiled broadly as he approached a couple reporters on the other side of the guard rail.
"Don't have to worry about who's playing quarterback next week," Spurrier crowed.
Indeed, the Redskins' biggest question was answered emphatically in the crucial early season game. After two weeks of controversy regarding who would play quarterback, rookie Patrick Ramsey made a memorable NFL debut by relieving injured Danny Wuerffel and guiding Washington to a 31-14 road win over the Tennessee Titans before 68,804.
Ramsey, the draft's 32nd overall pick, became the starter for the foreseeable future by completing 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. After three shaky initial series, the rookie demonstrated talent, patience, durability and, most importantly and surprisingly, a veteran's poise.
"I didn't know he could step up in there with guys flying around him and make throws the way he did," Spurrier said. "That was crucial. He avoided the rush here and there, stepped up, hit a lot of good third-down plays, kept drives going. I didn't know he could do that. None of us did."
As a result, Washington (2-2) won a game that had heavy implications for the direction of Spurrier's first season. Coming off consecutive losses in which the offense and defense struggled, the Redskins built confidence for a tough three-game stretch against New Orleans (4-1), at Green Bay (3-1) and against Indianapolis (3-1).
The win over the similarly desperate Titans (1-4), a quickly fading club that many picked for a deep run in the playoffs, was deemed so important by one Redskins player that he described it with a heavy sigh of relief.
"Write this up," linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "Whewww."
"It was a must-win," he added. "We were on a ship with leaks and it was sinking fast. We really needed to come down here and get this win. Now we're moving in the right direction. Next week we'll try to get two in a row."
Besides Ramsey, Washington can thank a gritty effort by running back Stephen Davis (18 carries, 90 yards, one touchdown), who returned to play in the third quarter after spraining his right knee in the first, and resurgent performances from the defense and offensive line.
Davis went down with just under a minute left in the opening period as he blocked for Ramsey. He got spun around as left guard David Loverne backpedaled into him and stepped on his leg. Coaches and teammates, seeing Davis' pain and hearing that his MCL was sprained, assumed his day was finished.
Instead, Davis rushed 13 times for 59 yards in the second half, grinding out 14 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, which put Washington up for good at 17-14.
"I knew the guy had heart, but it's like he had another heart hidden up in his body," offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. "He pulled it out and played outstanding. He came in and ran like a grown man today. I liked that."
Wuerffel, who was named the starter Saturday after Spurrier decided to bench Shane Matthews earlier in the week, strained a shoulder muscle on a third-down scramble on the Redskins' opening drive. The possession netted a field goal and a 3-0 lead, but Wuerffel departed to the locker room for X-rays on his collarbone, which trainers feared was broken.
Tennessee then went ahead as Ramsey struggled in his early series. A 31-yard pass to tight end Erron Kinny set up an 11-yard scoring scramble by quarterback Steve McNair, putting the Titans up 7-3 with 9:17 remaining.
That's when Ramsey emerged, hitting Chris Doering for a third-and-6 conversion and completing two passes a 23-yarder to fullback Bryan Johnson and a 15-yarder on third-and-10 to Doering as he was being dragged down by a frequently blitzing defense. Ramsey finished the drive by threading a 20-yard touchdown toss to Rod Gardner behind Pro Bowl cornerback Samari Rolle, who surprisingly played despite a hamstring injury.
"That drive right before the half really unloosened us," Spurrier said. "Sometimes when you punt, punt, punt, punt, the whole world's on your shoulders."
The Titans then grabbed a 14-10 halftime lead with a quick touchdown drive, but the Redskins responded with touchdowns on three straight possessions to open the second half. Davis' 1-yard scoring run was followed by a 23-yard touchdown throw to wide-open Kevin Lockett, who took advantage of a breakdown in Tennessee's coverage.
The final score came on a trick play, in which Lockett took lateral pass on the left side, fumbled it, picked it up and threw it across the field to Davis, who was all alone in the end zone for a 14-yard score.
The wild sequence was appropriate on a day of great surprises, like how Washington got its season back on course and the memorable debut of its rookie passer. A team plagued by controversy in recent weeks suddenly has a starting quarterback and a meaningful game next weekend against one of the NFL's better teams.
"I think I just need to have a good week of practice now," Ramsey said. "That's what my focus is. If I don't have a good week of practice, I don't think I should step on the football field. I want to go in Monday, watch the film, learn from it and go in Wednesday and start preparing for the Saints."


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