- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003


Patrick Ramsey was very impressive after a rough first half. Besides taking five sacks before halftime, Ramsey was wild with his throws. But he took the hits and continued to attack, and by the second half Atlanta’s pressure waned and he finished with a banner day (356 yards, two TDs). Although Ramsey could have done nothing about several sacks, he needs to get rid of the ball better, especially when a field goal is on the line.


There is no running back controversy. Starter Trung Canidate (15 carries, 89 yards) came to play after a so-so debut, and backup Ladell Betts (11 for 34 and a touchdown) continued to show his value. Short-yardage back Rock Cartwright got the call three straight times on the goal line and finally raced around the right edge. Backs did have trouble picking up linebackers who were coming after Patrick Ramsey.


Laveranues Coles dominated with 180 yards. After a terrific first half in the opener, he put together a whole game against the Falcons. He shrugged off a pair of neck injuries to catch a career-high 11 balls. A first Pro Bowl invite beckons. No. 2 Rod Gardner also was sharp (nine for 118), fighting off veteran corner Ray Buchanan for a 35-yarder and a 21-yard touchdown. No. 3 Darnerien McCants needs more consistency but shines at times.


Starter Zeron Flemister sat out with a strained Achilles’ tendon. Robert Royal got the start and performed reasonably well, plucking a batted ball out of the air for a first down. He also was open in one instance where Patrick Ramsey overshot him. Rookie Kevin Ware suited up but went unnoticed.


Very ugly early, but not bad ultimately. Washington’s linemen had difficulty picking up Atlanta’s 3-4 set and couldn’t communicate because of the crowd noise. They did a better job of recognition in the second half. Left tackle Chris Samuels had a rough start but improved. Right tackle Jon Jansen still isn’t performing to expectations. The interior line allowed unknown Ellis Johnson to enjoy a big day.


Starting nose tackle Jermaine Haley sat unexpectedly and the line yielded too many rushing lanes in the first half. Pressure also was a problem. But, as with much of the team, things turned around in the second half, when Atlanta rushed for just 7 yards. Veteran defensive end Bruce Smith fired up the defense when it seemed on its heels. Reserve Peppi Zellner (sack in the third quarter) is turning out to be a great no-name pickup.


They looked confused and slow in the first half, but they regained their swarming ability as the game progressed. Jessie Armstead continues to prove he has a few standout days ahead of him. His sack for a safety in the third quarter proved to be the winning points. Early, the Falcons made too many big plays through these guys, like when middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter couldn’t catch T.J. Duckett on a 13-yard touchdown run.


Kudos to cornerback Champ Bailey for shutting down Peerless Price in one of the game’s featured matchups. Free safety Matt Bowen wasn’t always in the right place but he made a key interception in the late going. Strong safety Ifeanyi Ohalete was erratic again, beaten by tight end Alge Crumpler for a 28-yard catch but later making a big interception. Rookie Ade Jimoh gave up a 42-yard touchdown when Rashad Bauman was injured.


What else can be said about kicker John Hall? He booted a 54-yarder at the end of the first half to send Washington into the locker room on an up note. His other attempt, 51 yards, had a high snap and appeared to be blocked. Several of Bryan Barker’s punts lead to big returns, but he pinned Atlanta at the 5 in the third quarter. Kickoff and punt coverage continues to be suspect, and the return game still is struggling. Returner Chad Morton seems to be pressing, running one out of the end zone against Ladell Betts’ recommendation.

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