- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

MIAMI — His team backed deep into a corner, the reserve quarterback came off the bench and led his mates to a dramatic, come-from-behind victory.

Who knew the man to do it would be Jay Fiedler, not Tim Hasselbeck?

Despite Hasselbeck’s surprising performance in place of injured quarterback Patrick Ramsey, Fiedler wound up stealing the show last night, coming off the bench to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 24-23 win over the stunned Washington Redskins.

Replacing ineffective starter Brian Griese, Fiedler (who had missed the last four weeks with a knee injury) rallied the Dolphins from 13 points down and sent the orange-decked Pro Player Stadium crowd of 73,578 home happy.

The Redskins (4-7), meanwhile, sulked home with their already slim playoff hopes all but dashed after losing a game by 7 points or less for the fifth time this season.

“I don’t know what it is,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “We just find a way to lose games.”

Washington’s players might have felt like they lost this one, but Fiedler’s heroics certainly had something to do with it.

His team down 23-10 in the fourth quarter, Fiedler entered to a chorus of cheers and immediately led Miami (7-4) on a 12-play, 71-yard touchdown drive. Ricky Williams capped it by leaping into the end zone on fourth-and-goal at the 1, cutting the lead to 23-17 with 10:27 to play.

After the Redskins’ offense stalled, Fiedler went right back to work, marching his team 69 yards in seven plays. Williams again scored the touchdown, scampering 24 yards down the heart of Washington’s defense for the deciding score.

“[Fiedler] came in and made a few plays, but it wasn’t anything that different to us,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “We need to learn how to finish. This is reality, it’s nothing like a bad dream. It’s been like this for years now, since I’ve been here. It’s getting frustrating.”

Given two chances to come back in the waning minutes, the Redskins twice turned the ball over. Hasselbeck was intercepted by safety Brock Marion, then after a Washington defensive stop, Patrick Johnson muffed Matt Turk’s punt with two minutes left, sealing the outcome.

“We had the game right in the palm of our hands,” Bailey said. “But we looked like an elementary school team in the fourth quarter.”

For most of the night, it looked like Hasselbeck would be the hero backup quarterback. He entered in the first quarter when Ramsey suffered a slight concussion and proceeded to give the Redskins a seemingly comfortable lead.

Hasselbeck tailed off down the stretch, but he still finished with solid numbers: 15-for-30, 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

“He deserved to be a winner tonight,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “But it didn’t work out, for all of us. We’re all losers now.”

After spending all week trying to get his fractured right foot healthy enough to play this game, Ramsey showed enough in pregame warmups to earn his 14th straight start under center. He didn’t stay there long.

On the Redskins’ second drive of the game, Ramsey was taken down hard by Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor. The battered quarterback immediately crumpled into the fetal position as Washington trainer Dean Kleinschmidt sprinted onto the field.

Ramsey walked off the field, despite the effects of a mild concussion, and though he originally pleaded with Spurrier to re-enter the game, Ramsey eventually thought better of it.

“I felt I would hinder us more than I would help us,” he said.

Hasselbeck immediately injected some life into the Redskins, going 10 of 14 for 106 yards and leading three first-half scoring drives.

“Usually a guy comes in all wide-eyed,” running back Trung Canidate said. “But he came in and took control of the huddle and did a great job.”

Washington also was energized by Bruce Smith, who was credited with half a sack in the first quarter, tying the veteran defensive end with Reggie White for the NFL’s record at 198.

Six minutes into the game, the Redskins looked dead in the water. On the third play of the game, receiver James McKnight beat nickelback David Terrell to catch Brian Griese’s pass in the left flat, then turned on the afterburners and raced 80 yards along the sideline for a touchdown.

Terrell got his revenge moments later when he picked off a pass from Griese and returned it to the Dolphins’ 8. The Redskins went nowhere, though, and when Ramsey lay in a heap after getting sacked by Taylor, another Washington collapse (see: at Buffalo, at Dallas) seemed imminent.

It didn’t happen, not until the fourth quarter, that is. Energized by Smith’s record-tying sack and Hasselbeck’s leadership under center, the Redskins took control of the game and held onto it for the better part of the night.

Relying on quick, high-percentage passes, Hasselbeck engineered an 11-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal by John Hall. Miami went 3-and-out, and Hasselbeck came right back to lead another scoring drive, this one ending in a touchdown.

With a deft pump-fake and a perfectly placed pass down the center of the field, Hasselbeck hit Laveranues Coles for a 37-yard touchdown. The quarterback’s first career TD pass gave the Redskins a 13-7 lead.

Hasselbeck’s sharp arm helped open things up for Washington’s beleaguered running game. Canidate rebounded from back-to-back sub-par games to post a 20-carry, 69-yard night. And scat back Chad Morton picked up 27 key yards on a nicely executed draw play late in the second quarter. That set up Canidate’s 2-yard touchdown, capping a 12-play drive and putting the Redskins up 20-7.

Perhaps finally sensing some urgency, the Dolphins quickly got three points back before halftime, with Griese setting up Olindo Mare’s 51-yard field goal. That made it 20-10 heading into the locker room.

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