- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the Washington Redskins cut Stephen Davis in February, there were serious questions about how they would replace him even in Steve Spurrier’s pass-happy attack.

Those questions were magnified in the Redskins’ 20-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers yesterday at Ericsson Stadium. Davis’ successor, Trung Canidate, gained just 18 yards on 10 carries. The Redskins’ hottest back, Rock Cartwright, fumbled at the Carolina goal line, bringing Washington’s second series to a premature and fruitless end.

Meanwhile, Davis set up the Panthers’ winning touchdown with a 25-yard run on a screen pass. Then, with 1:09 remaining, he scored on a controversial 3-yard run on which he was stopped short of the end zone but stretched his arms ahead to allow the ball to break the plane of the goal line. An official ruled it a touchdown, a call that was upheld when replays proved inconclusive.

“It came down to a game where two running backs went to the end zone, one fumbled and one didn’t,” Spurrier said. “That ended up being [the] two big plays, and we were on the bad end of both of them.”

As is his wont, the peeved Spurrier didn’t give Cartwright a carry for the rest of the first half. Cartwright, a 5-foot-7, 223-pound bruiser, clearly had been the Redskins’ best back in their previous two games, a loss to the Dallas Cowboys and a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Cartwright produced 46 of the Redskins’ 101 net yards through three quarters yesterday, gaining 23 yards on six carries and 23 more on two catches. Still, he did not question Spurrier’s decision not to give him the ball.

“I cost us the game,” said Cartwright, facing his locker with his head bowed. “I let the organization down. I let the team down. I let the city down. I thought I was in, but I wasn’t and somebody hit it out. I’m at a loss for words right now.”

Chris Samuels, the Redskins’ two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, told Cartwright not to feel personally responsible for the defeat.

“I told Rock, ‘Don’t feel like you lost the game,’” Samuels said. “I gave up a sack for an interception. Everybody made mistakes. And Rock bounced back and played well.”

Right guard Randy Thomas agreed.

“A pro moves on,” Thomas said. “Rock’s not dead. We’ve got another game this week.”

The Redskins’ defense limited Davis to 3.3 yards a carry, but Cartwright and Canidate combined for just 50 yards on 19 carries, a paltry 2.6-yard average.

“The run game definitely isn’t where I want it to be,” said Canidate, still bothered by the high ankle sprain he suffered on Oct.12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “And when you lose, that really ticks you off.”

For the year, Davis has gained 1,084 yards on 221 carries, a 4.9-yard average. The six backs who have carried the ball for the Redskins have 199 fewer yards on nine more carries and a 3.9-yard average.

Rough day for Ramsey

The tone for Patrick Ramsey’s entire afternoon was set on the Redskins’ first play from scrimmage.

The second-year quarterback dropped back, had time to throw, spotted Laveranues Coles wide open deep down the field and proceeded to overthrow his receiver by a good 5 yards.

“I missed it,” Ramsey said. “It’s as simple as that.”

It wouldn’t be the only time Ramsey “missed it” against the Panthers. Battling pressure from the Panthers’ front four and his inconsistencies, Ramsey had one of his worst games of the season. He completed just 16 of 35 passes for 150 yards and got sacked three times.

Redskins fans have come to accept the fact Ramsey is going to face heavy pressure from opposing defenses. It was Ramsey’s uncharacteristic poor throwing that came as a surprise yesterday.

Coach Steve Spurrier suggested that the wind at Ericsson Stadium might have played a role in Ramsey’s frequent overthrows. The quarterback wasn’t using that as an excuse.

“No, it would be easy to tell you guys that,” Ramsey said. “But no, it didn’t. It was a lot windier this week in practice than it was out there today.”

After a horrendous first half (5-for-12, 41 yards), Ramsey started to get things going. He engineered two late scoring drives, connecting with receivers Darnerien McCants and Patrick Johnson for a pair of touchdowns that briefly gave the Redskins the lead.

But that was little consolation for the young quarterback.

“We had plenty of opportunities to win the game,” Ramsey said, “and we didn’t.”

Carolina D-line a load

The Redskins had their expected difficulties with the Panthers’ defensive line, which showed why it is widely considered to be among the NFL’s best.

Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, a University of Maryland product, had two sacks, while defensive ends Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers each had key hits on quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Rucker entered the game as the NFL’s sack leader with 11, but went without one yesterday. Still, he beat Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels in the third quarter and hit Ramsey, whose throw wobbled into the arms of defensive tackle Shane Burton. Rucker also got to Ramsey on several other occasions.

“To be honest with you, and I’m not downgrading anything he did, but there was a lot of stuff I did wrong out there,” Samuels said. “I kind of set him bad one time when he got [in there]. He got a short corner and made the play. He’s an outstanding player.”

Jenkins’ first sack came when he raced around right tackle Jon Jansen, and later he beat center Lennie Friedman. Jenkins also helped force a punt in the fourth quarter when he pinched Jansen and guard Randy Thomas, freeing Peppers for a hit on Ramsey.

“They’re a very good unit,” Jansen said of Carolina’s defensive line. “What makes them a good unit is that they play together. You don’t see Randy and I get beat on a twist very much, and they ran a twist on us and got us. You’ve got to give credit to them.”

Carolina’s third sack came on a blitz from cornerback Terry Cousin in the first quarter.

McCants tiptoes to TD

Darnerien McCants doesn’t make many receptions for the Redskins (with three yesterday, he raised his season total to 20). But he sure has a knack for making the most of his limited time in the spotlight.

McCants was at it again, hauling in a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ramsey to tie the game 10-10 early in the fourth quarter. Reaching high to catch the pass, then deftly tiptoeing along the back of the end zone, McCants scored his team-leading fifth touchdown of the season.

Afterward he was nonchalant about his sparkling catch — and his proclivity for making big plays.

“That’s the way it was set up,” McCants said. “It’s set up for me to get open and make the catch. And if it does turn into a more challenging catch, the way Patrick places the ball, I’m the only one that’s going to get it.”

LaVar at DE

For the first time this season, linebacker LaVar Arrington spent the bulk of the game at defensive end in the nickel package. Arrington played that position all last season under Marvin Lewis, recording a team-high 11 sacks, but defensive coordinator George Edwards used him mostly in coverage for this season’s first nine games.

Arrington did not have a sack (no Redskin did), but he did get to Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme on a second-quarter third down and batted down the attempted pass.

Arrington declined to comment after the game. He has not spoken to Redskins beat reporters in three weeks.

No penalties

After seven games, the Redskins were on pace to break the NFL record for the most penalties in one season.

No more. The Redskins were penalized just four times last week against the Seahawks and, amazingly, not at all yesterday.

The only whistle against them came on their next-to-last offensive snap, when rookie left guard Derrick Dockery was called for holding. The Panthers declined the penalty because Patrick Ramsey’s pass fell incomplete.

“Maybe we’re settled in and starting to play smarter,” Samuels said.

Though the Redskins no longer are on pace to break the league record, they still are on pace to break the franchise mark of 122.

Bowen injured again

Safety Matt Bowen was the lone Redskin to suffer an injury, and even that one proved to be minor.

Playing one week after suffering a concussion on a goal-line hit, Bowen appeared to suffer a similar injury when he went down after slamming into Panthers receiver Steve Smith on a long pass to the Redskins’ 7.

Turns out all Bowen did was hit his left elbow on Smith’s helmet, a painful injury nonetheless, but one that allowed him to be back on the field one play later.

“I hit him as hard as I could, and I got it right in the elbow,” Bowen said. “It’s like getting hit in the funny bone by a truck, that’s what it felt like.”

Inactives

The Redskins’ inactives were running back Sultan McCullough (hand), cornerback Rashad Bauman (ankle), safety Andre Lott (ankle), running back Ladell Betts (forearm), center Larry Moore (foot), defensive tackle Jermaine Haley (thumb/shoulder) and tight end Byron Chamberlain. Wide receiver Cliff Russell was dubbed the third quarterback.

The Redskins made a minor move before the game, signing Pita Elisara off the practice squad and cutting Mitch White.

David Elfin, Jody Foldesy, Mark Zuckerman


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