- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A year ago at Giants Stadium, Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier called 37 passes in a driving rainstorm. Yesterday he read the frigid, windy conditions and opted for 48 runs and just 21 passing plays in the 20-7 victory over the New York Giants.

Spurrier’s run-heavy play calling came just a week after he absorbed criticism from several players for passing so much. The Redskins averaged 6.2 yards a carry in the Nov.30 loss to New Orleans, but they ran the ball just 26 times.

The coach said yesterday’s weather “certainly” played a part in his game plan, but he indicated other factors (like the criticism) might have been at play.

“The weather and everything else about coming up here and so forth,” Spurrier said. “It was a cold, bitter day, and our guys hung in there and played hard.”

Offensive tackle Jon Jansen barely contained his frustration in the locker room after the Saints game, and on the sideline that day he and guard Randy Thomas voiced their displeasure with Spurrier’s play calling. Yesterday Jansen said he was pleased with how the game was called.

“Yeah, and especially in the fourth quarter,” Jansen said. “We were given the opportunity with 5 or six minutes left to end the game, and we did. I think it was great play calling. I think it was great execution by the whole offense.”

Canidate sprains foot

Trung Canidate had just reeled off his game-best 17-yard run, giving him 66 yards on 18 carries. But on the next play as Canidate ran right for 3, he heard something pop. Canidate left the game and didn’t return. The postgame diagnosis was a sprain of the middle of his left foot.

“I was feeling good,” Canidate said. “It was the second half and we had the lead, so I thought I would get the ball in my hands because we were going to definitely run the ball on a day like this. [My foot] just got twisted. We’ve got to take some tests and see what exactly is wrong. It definitely feels better than the last time [when he missed three weeks after spraining his right ankle against Tampa Bay on Oct. 12].”

However, Canidate admitted concern that his latest injury could keep him out of Washington’s final three games. He leads the Redskins with 600 yards on 142 carries, a 4.3 average, in his first season as an NFL starter. Backups Ladell Betts, Rock Cartrwright, Chad Morton and John Simon have combined for 685 yards on 181 carries (3.8).

Hasselbeck’s a winner

Three games into his NFL career, Tim Hasselbeck finally got his first victory.

The backup quarterback, who started his second straight game with Patrick Ramsey sidelined, wasn’t asked to do much, throwing just 19 passes. But Hasselbeck ran a very efficient offense, completing 13 of his attempts for 154 yards, two touchdowns and an outstanding 128.0 quarterback rating.

He also earned some high praise from his coach.

“Tim Hasselbeck — what a performance in this bitter wind and cold,” Steve Spurrier said.

Hasselbeck, who grew up in Massachusetts and had plenty of experience playing in the cold, was happy to have played a mistake-free game after back-to-back losses.

“I tended to beat myself up over some plays from the last two weeks,” he said. “I heard people say, ‘Well, for being here five weeks, I guess it’s a pretty good job.’ I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted to hear, ‘That’s a good job,’ regardless of how long I was here.”

Trotter leads big D

The Redskins’ defense finally held a lead after three straight blown opportunities. And although it came down to a variety of plays throughout the fourth quarter, coach Steve Spurrier couldn’t say enough about one particular tackle afterward.

Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter earned repeated praise from Spurrier for chasing down Tiki Barber at the end of a 36-yard gain on a screen pass with just more than 10 minutes remaining. After Spurrier’s news conference, he was seen going right to Trotter in the locker room and giving him a personal commendation.

“I thought he was gone when I saw [Barber] come down our sideline,” Spurrier told reporters. “Jeremiah was our last hope. He was able to run him down somehow and get him out of bounds.”

Said Trotter: “I was just hustling, trying to make a play. I didn’t know I had a shot at him until I got him.”

After letting fourth-quarter leads evaporate at Carolina, at Miami and against New Orleans, Washington limited the Giants to just 63 second-half yards. The performance might ease the heat on defensive coordinator George Edwards, whose job status has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

“Coach George Edwards was on us all week, [saying], ‘We’ve got to learn how to close out games,’” linebacker Jessie Armstead said. “On the sideline in the third quarter, he told some guys, ‘We’ve got to step up after halftime and don’t wait for something to happen.’ The guys realize we haven’t been closing out games, and he made sure he emphasized it the whole time.”

Blowin’ in the wind

Giants Stadium is known as the NFL’s windiest stadium, and it more than lived up to its reputation as far as Redskins kicker John Hall and punter Bryan Barker were concerned.

Hall, who spent his first six seasons in the stadium kicking for the New York Jets, was wide left on a 39-yard field goal try into the wind with 9:29 left in the second quarter. That miss was canceled by an offside penalty against the Giants, but Hall promptly followed with another wide-left from 34 yards.

“It was right up there with some of the worst times I’ve kicked here,” said Hall, who made a 28-yarder in the first quarter and a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter. “At the end where they have the tunnel open, it creates havoc with the wind. There’s not much you can do except try to get the ball there. The wind swirls and you can’t tell if it’s coming from the right or the left. You just know it’s definitely in your face and you’ve got to hit [the ball] kind of low and drive it. On the ones I missed, I thought the wind was going to the right, but I guess it was going to the left. I thought I kicked the second one better, but the ball started out down the middle and just hooked out.”

Barker booted a career-best 83-yard punt here in 1999 against the Jets, but yesterday his first two punts traveled a pathetic 9 and 16 yards. Like Hall, Barker — whose last and best punt went 39 yards — laid part of the blame for his poor day on the special, slick balls that the NFL uses only for the kicking game.

“It doesn’t get much worse than a cold, windy day and slick footballs,” said Barker, whose third punt, a 28-yarder in the third quarter, was the 1,000th of his 14-year career. “I knew on the train up here that it was going to be tough to punt today. The hardest part was just catching the balls.”

Injuries

Along with Trung Canidate’s foot sprain, running back Ladell Betts re-injured his fractured forearm on his lone rushing attempt and never returned.

Betts, who was expected to see plenty of action during his late-season audition for a starting role next year, was on the field for only seconds. He took a handoff from Hasselbeck on second-and-5 late in the first quarter, picked up 3 yards, then jogged off the field holding onto his arm.

Betts, who missed four games after initially suffering the fracture, said he wasn’t sure how he got hurt but admitted he was in “a lot of pain.” His status for this week is unclear.

Linebacker LaVar Arrington had to leave briefly twice, once in the first half when he suffered a mild right knee sprain, then again in the second half after he banged his left knee. Arrington returned to finish the game and is not expected to miss any time.

Last-minute switch

This weekend’s snowstorm didn’t cause problems just for the teams and fans. Two officials assigned to the game, referee Ron Winter and back judge Perry Paganelli, couldn’t make their flights into the New York area and had to be replaced.

Referee Walt Coleman and back judge Greg Steed, who were supposed to be working yesterday’s game in Baltimore, instead took the train north and officiated the Redskins-Giants game. Winter and Paganelli were re-routed to Baltimore.

Inactives

Washington’s inactives were running back Sultan McCullough, safety Andre Lott, running back John Simon, tackle Chris Samuels (knee), tight end Byron Chamberlain, wide receiver Cliff Russell and defensive tackle Martin Chase. Patrick Ramsey (foot) was named the third quarterback.

— Jody Foldesy, Mark Zuckerman, David Elfin


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