- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

Whew. Another thrilling ending. If the NFL is looking for parity, it can find it in abundance in Washington, where the Redskins always crawl back to about even before the game’s over.

This time they built a 17-point edge over New England before letting the Patriots make a game of it. What looked like a ho-hum win — just the kind you’d expect from a good team against a very banged-up one wasn’t decided until safety Ifeanyi Ohalete broke up a fourth-down pass with 37 seconds left.

If the Redskins are up big, they let ‘em come back. If they’re getting pounded, they fight right back into it. They’re the Floaties of the NFL. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Fortunately, the Monday Morning Quarterback’s got a straw and an answer or two.



Q: Here we go again. So what’s the scoop? Are we any good or just setting ourselves up for disappointment?

A: The next three weeks will tell a lot. The Redskins have done a great job to start 3-1 against what, on paper, was a very difficult opening stretch. Now they head to Philadelphia to play the revived Eagles in their new digs, then it’s back home for defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay and on the road to face Buffalo. If Washington is 4-3 at the bye, the playoffs are a real possibility.

Q: Just imagine if the Redskins won the coin flip against the Giants. They could be 4-0 and halfway to Houston. Is this team really that good?

A: Not so fast. The Redskins are better off like this. Four wins to start the season creates outsized expectations, and what we know for certain is that this penalty-plagued, up-and-down bunch is not ready to compete for the Super Bowl. The Redskins need to continue to build confidence week by week, not start thinking of themselves as one of the NFL’s elite.

Q: The Patriots had nine starters absent. We’re surprised they could even field a team. Does this win mean much?

A: Every win is significant in the NFL, because there’s sure to be a game or two down the stretch that go the other way on flukey calls or bounces. Yes, Washington lucked out for a third time this year in terms of injuries. But the Redskins also won all three games. Good teams don’t let such opportunities get away.

Q: Faltering down the stretch has us a bit worried. What are the positives to take out of this one?

A: That Patrick Ramsey still is standing after another beating (if he goes down, things change in an instant.) That the run game remains capable (it could have been a real weakness this season.) That the defense held on that final series (remember overtime against the Giants?) That the Redskins dominated the turnover battle (a recurring problem under Steve Spurrier.) And that they didn’t get behind early. The game was well managed from start until nearly the finish.

Q: Yeah, what the heck happened there at the end?

A: First, cornerback Ade Jimoh is in over his head. We know coaches like his upside. That’s why they cut veteran Alex Molden in camp. But the kid has given up two touchdowns in about as many plays. They don’t make Advil for these kind of growing pains. Just like at Atlanta, Jimoh gave up a long touchdown that allowed the opponent valuable extra minutes to stage a rally.

Q: But David Givens’ score against Jimoh was in the third quarter. Don’t other guys share the blame?

A: Fair enough. The Redskins’ offense is just as much at fault. The NFL’s top-ranked unit entering the game generated just 252 yards and got just one first down after Givens’ score. The run game remains spotty getting yards when everybody knows the Redskins are running. That’s the next phase in the offense’s development. And then those false starts on the final series made it impossible to convert a crucial third down. Still, Laveranues Coles made it close.

Q: What happened on that pass? It looked like Coles had control.

A: Spurrier and Coles were told by officials that even if he caught the ball in bounds, he needed to tuck it away and keep control as he landed out of bounds. A league official later clarified that the key was keeping control as he hit the ground, regardless of whether it was in or out of bounds. Bottom line: Coles didn’t have the ball long enough to drop it when he hit the turf. The unfortunate thing was he probably would have hung on if he didn’t try to stretch for the first down, but he figured it was a catch all the way.

Q: Penalties, penalties everywhere. What the heck are the refs doing at practice, providing crowd noise? Is there anything else Spurrier can do to prevent the flags?

A: He appeared truly exasperated at game’s end and didn’t bother with trying to spread blame to the coaches. To follow a 17-penalty game with nine, to rack up 44 penalties in just four games — these things are inexcusable. And three of the games have been at home. Redskins players have to get themselves under control.

Q: How did Patrick Ramsey play? His statistics weren’t very good.

A: He was imprecise with some throws but he’s rapidly developing into a winning quarterback. Not a fantasy football stats-monger, but a winner. And Redskins fans appreciate that. He received a generous, extended applause after scrambling for 7 yards in the second quarter. The play didn’t mean a heck of a lot, but the fans recognized the fact that he puts the team’s fate ahead of his own interests.

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