- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

Redskins notes

ATLANTA — On the best passing day of his short career, quarterback Patrick Ramsey helped keep the Redskins undefeated with his toughness as much as his arm.

Ramsey was sacked for the fifth time with 25 seconds left in the second quarter yesterday at the Georgia Dome, and he couldn’t lift his left arm higher than his shoulder at halftime. The Redskins coaches and training staff feared the worst, but Ramsey wasn’t about to miss a snap.

Toughness can’t be measured until its displayed, and yesterday’s second half was Ramsey’s opportunity to show his mettle. The 24-year-old returned to the field and delivered a stirring performance reminiscent of battle-hardened Redskins quarterbacks of the past.



Ramsey completed 13 of 15 passes in the second half for 186 yards and two touchdowns and completed the game with career highs in passing yards (356) and completions (25). He rallied the Redskins from a 17-point first-half deficit.

“I got a sprained shoulder, my left [non throwing] shoulder, I came in and got treatment and I’m fine,” Ramsey said downplaying the seriousness of his injury.

Coach Steve Spurrier believes Ramsey’s status will be day-to-day leading up to Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at FedEx Field.

“[Halftime] he was hurting a bit, he was jammed up,” Spurrier said. “Fortunately, it was his left one. I think the last sack, he sort of got buried on it. He’ll certainly be sore for two or three days. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go next week.”

It looked like an innocuous sack, if there is such a thing in the NFL. On the Redskins’ last possession of the first half, Falcons backup defensive end Travis Hall dropped Ramsey for a 2-yard loss at the Atlanta 36.

However, as the Redskins set up for John Hall’s 54-yard field goal attempt seconds before halftime, Ramsey was escorted back to the locker room for evaluation.

Ramsey is fortunate he wasn’t hurt more: He was sacked six times for minus-46 yards. The left side of the offensive line — tackle Chris Samuels and guard Dave Fiore — broke down often. Most of the pressure on Ramsey came from the left.

In the second half, the Redskins started throwing quick screens to neutralize the Falcons’ ferocious pass rush, and they kept a running back in the backfield to help pick up the rush.

“It’s football, it’s not something that you’re going to blame on anyone,” Ramsey said of the numerous times he was sacked and hurried. “You go out there and try to make the most of the situation you can and move on, and I did. A couple of those [sacks] were on me; we’ve got to communicate a little bit better.

“Crowd noise I think affected us some, and in the second half we came together and [the pressure] wasn’t as big a factor.”

Big stop

The game appeared to turn on the Redskins’ defensive stand in the second quarter, which was the result of the inspired play of veteran defensive end Bruce Smith.

Washington trailed 17-0 when the Falcons registered their second straight sack-fumble and took over at the Redskins’ 25. But instead of rolling in for another touchdown or at least getting a field goal, the Falcons missed a 45-yarder after Warrick Dunn was stuffed on first down and Smith pressured Doug Johnson into a pair of bad throws.

“I think Bruce Smith had two good pass rushes on that [series] that kept us from executing,” Falcons coach Dan Reeves said.

Linebacker Jessie Armstead acknowledged the unit needed a turnaround at that point.

“It wasn’t so much intimidation, but things just weren’t going our way,” Armstead said. “When you face adversity, are you going to let adversity take over or are you going to fight back? All the guys started fighting back.”

Smith, who left the locker room quickly after the game and couldn’t be reached for comment, started screaming like a wild man after the third down in an effort to pump up his teammates. The inspirational series followed a pep talk he gave before Washington’s terrific defensive performance in its opener.

“Bruce is of course our main leader,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He speaks to us all the time. When he goes out there and says something, we know it’s time to ball. It’s all about stepping up to the challenge.”

Armstead safety dance

Jessie Armstead’s first career safety wasn’t just the deciding play in yesterday’s game, it was brilliant awareness by the veteran linebacker.

Armstead said he was able to sack Falcons quarterback Doug Johnson in the end zone late in the third quarter because he recognized the play the Falcons ran earlier in the game. The safety gave the Redskins a 26-24 lead.

“They ran the same play in the second quarter,” Armstead said of Atlanta’s attempted play-action, dump pass to running back Warrick Dunn. “I said if they ever come back to that play again, I’m going to go get him.”

The first time the Falcons ran the play, Armstead stayed back and covered Dunn coming out of the backfield. The second time they ran it (on second-and-9 at their 6), Armstead blitzed and had a clear path to the quarterback. He wrapped up Johnson, threw him to the ground and gave Washington the lead for good.

“When you do something like that, you have to make sure you get to the quarterback before the running back can make a play on a screen or something like that,” said Armstead. “You’ve got to get there. If Dunn gets that ball in his hands, it’s going to be a big play.”

So did Armstead know what to do after picking up his first safety?

“Yeah, I knew what to do,” he said. “I knew to celebrate.”

Thunder leg

Redskins kicker John Hall bent it like Beckham when he missed a 51-yard first-quarter field goal, but his kick with six seconds left on the first half was a thing of beauty. Hall’s 54-yard field goal was the sixth-longest in team history.

On third-and-10 at the Falcons 36 with 12 seconds left, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier could have gone for a first down or thrown into the end zone. Instead, Spurrier sent out the former New York Jet and Hall delivered. The field goal provided a momentum swing as the Redskins went into the locker room down 24-17 after having trailed by as many as 17 points.

The Ball Coach said it was an easy decision.

“The guys looked at me a little bit, but I said, ‘there’s only 10 seconds left, let him have a shot at it.’ He hit it. He’s a really good kicker. His range is 55 … it was indoors and astroturf. Outdoors and a little breeze? No, I probably wouldn’t have tried it,” Spurrier said.

Hall’s missed 51-yarder was a result of several problems. The snap was high, the ball wasn’t set properly and Hall hit it bad. The kick came out low and spinning and didn’t even reach the end zone on the fly.

“I thought the snap was a little high and the ball got down a little bit,” Spurrier said. “It was just sort of helter-skelter all the way through.”

Betts 1, Canidate 1

One week after watching Ladell Betts get the bulk of the Redskins’ rushing attempts, Trung Canidate came back with a strong performance of his own yesterday.

Canidate carried 15 times for a team-high 89 yards and four times broke through for double-digit yards.

“The guys up front, they were doing a nice job,” said Canidate, who got only 10 rushes for 46 yards in the season opener. “It’s my job to get up in there. I still haven’t done what I want to do. But you know what, we got a big victory and that’s all that matters.”

Betts once again came off the bench to provide a change-of-pace, but he didn’t have as much impact as he did against the Jets (when he ran 18 times for 77 yards).

This time, Betts picked up 34 hard-earned yards on 11 carries. He did, however, score Washington’s first touchdown, making several nifty cuts on a 13-yard score in the second quarter.

Solving the 3-4

Washington surrendered five sacks in the first half as it struggled to adapt to Atlanta’s 3-4 defensive front and the crowd noise.

In two first-half instances, the Falcons blitzed a linebacker on the blind side and the running back couldn’t pick him up. The Redskins later blamed the sacks on shaky communication, thanks mostly to the deafening environment of the Georgia Dome.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say [our problem was] the 3-4; I’d say the crowd,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “They played hard. They made some plays. But overall, their fans just helped them out, making all that noise. We were rattled.”

The Falcons are one of just five NFL teams who play the 3-4, which makes it difficult for offenses to prepare. The Redskins’ line found itself wanting to make changes before a play but unable to because of the noise, so it made a blanket adjustment at the end of the first half.

“We came in at halftime and said, ‘If we see a certain thing, that’s how we’re going to [block] it,’” center Larry Moore said.

Also, coach Steve Spurrier started leaving the tight end and running backs in more often to help block.

Bailey vs. Price

Falcons star wide receiver Peerless Price caught just two passes for 28 yards, thanks mostly to blanket coverage from cornerback Champ Bailey.

Price’s 19-yard reception in the first half came on one of the rare instances when Washington was in a zone. Price added a 9-yarder in the second half on a quick slant against Bailey.

“You’ve got to give him [the slant],” Bailey said with a smile. “He makes a lot of money too.”

Of his first premier matchup of the season, the three-time Pro Bowl corner added, “You’ve got to have a little extra juice going in against him. This guy, he’s one of the best. … It was all about that challenge, and I loved it.”

Lucky pants

So much for the Redskins’ new white-on-white look being a one-time thing.

After debuting so well in white jerseys and pants for the first time in franchise history on Sept.4, Washington’s players chose to again feature the unconventional uniform combo yesterday.

Linebacker LaVar Arrington said, emphatically, last week he didn’t expect the Redskins to go back to the new look again. He claimed it was reserved for “big games” only. But after pulling off a second straight win in the new duds, Washington might be tempted to make this a permanent change.

Hogettes, they are not

The real Redskins cheerleaders might take this personally.

About 15 minutes before kickoff, the Georgia Dome public address announcer said, “Let’s welcome the Washington Redskins cheerleaders.” On cue, out trotted the Falcons mascot and four grotesquely overweight men dressed as women in Redskins garb. After a ridiculous five-minute cheering and tumbling routine, the five crossdressers (including the mascot) mercifully exited the field.

New injuries

The Redskins will monitor the injury to quarterback Patrick Ramsey’s left (non-throwing) shoulder in coming days. Club officials worried he wouldn’t be able to play the second half but he toughed it out. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles banged up his head and neck region twice but returned to the field both times. No. 3 cornerback Rashad Bauman strained a hamstring and did not return, but he didn’t expect to miss practice time.

Inactives

Defensive tackle Jermaine Haley was a surprise inactive with a broken thumb. The team listed him as probable but Steve Spurrier said after the game Haley didn’t do much in practice last week and that it didn’t make sense to make him part of the 45 active players. Spurrier added Haley could be inactive in weeks to come.

Safety David Terrell returned from his surprise inactivity in the opener and participated in a special teams role. Washington’s other inactives were running back Sultan McCullough, linebacker Lemar Marshall, offensive lineman Brandon Winey, wide receivers Cliff Russell and Taylor Jacobs (bruised pancreas), tight end Zeron Flemister (strained Achilles’ tendon) and defensive end Ladairis Jackson.

Jody Foldesy, Ken Wright and Mark Zuckerman

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