- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They stumbled their way through an inept offensive performance. They let the league’s worst offense run all over them. And at the end of the day, the reeling Washington Redskins were left trying to defend themselves after their 24-7 dismantling by the Buffalo Bills.

Steve Spurrier certainly didn’t think much of his players. The coach flat-out questioned his team’s effort following its third straight loss.

“We’ve got to regroup. We’ve got to find out who really wants to play. I don’t know how much fight we had in our team tonight,” said Spurrier, whose team is 3-4 heading into its bye week. “We’ve got to find out who wants to compete and play the game because it was embarrassing the way we played, no question about it.”

The Redskins were a downtrodden bunch in their cramped locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium. But it was hard to find any players who agreed with their coach’s assessment.

“In no way would I say my teammates didn’t give effort,” said quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised throwing hand and hip. “I’m not disagreeing with Coach Spurrier, but in no way would I ever say that about them.”

Said linebacker LaVar Arrington: “I can’t speak for everybody. I didn’t ever quit fighting. I’ll tell you that I’m embarrassed, but I don’t ever quit fighting. I’ll come out of the game before I quit fighting.”

Given the Redskins’ lackadaisical performance in a game they knew they had to win, Spurrier’s postgame criticisms were hardly surprising.

The Redskins did little to convince coaches and fans alike that they can turn their once-promising season around. Their fourth loss in their last five games bore plenty of similarities to the ones that preceded it.

Washington committed mistake after mistake (including nine penalties) and offered up little protection for its quarterbacks. Ramsey spent most of the day avoiding defensive linemen and wound up completing only nine of 26 passes for 115 yards before leaving after he took his 10th hit of the game.

The running game was nearly non-existent for the third straight week, with Trung Canidate on the sideline with a sprained ankle and Ladell Betts joining him yesterday after suffering a broken left forearm. Left to hand the ball off to seldom-used Chad Morton and Rock Cartwright, the Redskins were held to 56 yards on the ground against the NFL’s 23rd-ranked rushing defense.

And against a Bills offense that was the league’s lowest-ranked and played without star receiver Eric Moulds, Washington’s defense got torched for 432 total yards, 167 by running back Travis Henry.

“It was just one of those days,” said Betts, who watched the second half with his arm in a sling. “In this game, you oftentimes have days like that. Unfortunately, it happened to us.”

In a season full of poorly played halves, the Redskins yesterday suffered through their first poorly played 60 minutes.

The Bills (4-3) were in control from the start, taking the opening kickoff and marching 68 yards before stalling at the 3 and settling for Rian Lindell’s 20-yard field goal. Shortly after, they went 59 yards in six plays, getting a 4-yard touchdown run by Henry to make it 10-0.

The Redskins rarely got anything going offensively, and even when they seemed to start moving, they frequently managed to botch it. No single play was more disturbing than Ramsey’s second-quarter fumble on third-and-goal from the 1.

On the play, an intended handoff, rookie left guard Derrick Dockery pulled toward the right and inadvertently swatted the ball out of Ramsey’s hands. Bills safety Lawyer Milloy recovered it, the crowd of 73,149 roared and the Redskins trudged off the field in shame.

“Something hit the ball — I don’t know if it was my guy or if it was their guy,” Ramsey said. “Somebody said [a Bills defender] jumped over. Somebody said it was my guard. I don’t know what happened. I lost the ball, and I just started going for it.”

Washington’s lone glimmer of hope came at the start of the third quarter when Ramsey engineered a 12-play, 76-yard drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Rod Gardner. John Hall’s extra point cut the lead to 10-7, but the Redskins squandered their touchdown by giving one back to Buffalo on a very familiar play.

Copying Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson’s play from last week, Drew Bledsoe (19 of 26, 244 yards) ran a perfectly executed play-action bootleg and hit Josh Reed (eight catches, 109 yards) for a 10-yard touchdown that sealed the victory.

“That’s what Tampa Bay did last week, same exact thing,” said defensive end Bruce Smith, who was held sackless and remains 1 behind Reggie White’s all-time mark. “As long as things like that occur, we are not a very good football team.”

Smith would get no argument on that from his coach, who hinted that changes could be in store.

“We’ll get all of us involved,” Spurrier said. “We’ll get the owners and personnel guys and coaches and figure out who’s playing hard, playing their assignments. And if we’ve got a bunch of guys not doing that, we’ll go out on the street and pick up guys who will play hard.”

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