- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

Britney Spears’ belly. The Madden Cruiser. And a heck of a traffic jam. Yup, the Monday Morning Quarterback was ready for some football. And what a game it was, especially early on.

The Redskins and Jets opened by trading long scoring drives. Then the counter-punches started flying. The scoring settled down. As the two-minute warning came and went, the clubs were tied. And then kicker John Hall won it in the final seconds.

If nothing else, Washington proved it’s for real this year. Preseason concerns about a flop, about a combustible mix, about coach Steve Spurrier throwing down his visor and walking out at some point were premature. The Redskins may or may not be a playoff team, but they certainly have some hope.

Q: Was that the playoffs you mentioned? We knew you’d come around.

A: Not so fast. Last night’s good-looking effort had something to do with the Jets not exactly being world-beaters. It’s way too early to start predicting the Redskins for the postseason. That said, the way they played under last night’s spotlight was very impressive. They could have been looking ahead to a grueling opening stretch and flopped.

Q: Patrick Ramsey was running like crazy for the win. Where did he get those wheels? A: Ramsey is slowly learning the nuances of the game. In the preseason he looked like a wounded duck trying to waddle for a first down. Last night his instincts — not his big arm — landed Washington in field-goal range for John Hall’s game-winner.

Q: Was that really a big win? It sure seemed like it.

A: Even though the two teams aren’t highly considered around the league, it was an exciting night for football. It probably was the most hyped game Washington has played since the Monday night contest against Tennessee in 2000 — the one where both teams entered on a roll, and the Redskins played well except for a couple big returns.

Q: Wasn’t Norv Turner fired a few games later?

A: Things change quickly in the NFL, especially around here.

Q: Would the Redskins have been in this one if Chad Pennington had played?

A: Probably. The Redskins defense was cohesive and inspired out there. Vinny Testaverde couldn’t make a lot of plays, and a big part of that was Washington. The linebackers have become the focal point of this defense, and its ranking can be good if the line simply holds up. Pennington, by the way, looked like something out of Marvel Comics with that club on his left arm.

Q: Were the pre-game introductions switched around?

A: Yup. The Redskins changed the order they announced the defensive starters to make Bruce Smith the final one. We’ve thought for years that they needed to tweak the order (who wanted to finish with Sam Shade?), but LaVar should be last. He gets the biggest cheers, hands down. It was anticlimactic to run through a ho-hum defensive line and then finish with Smith.

Q: What gives with Spurrier running the ball so much and not going for it at the end of the first half?

A: The Ball Coach learned a lot in his first year in the NFL — stuff like not to give away the whole playbook during the preseason. And he generally plays a poker hand concerning what he knows and doesn’t know. Last year we weren’t sure about him, but last night he seemed unpredictable in a very good way. And the way Ladell Betts looked, the Redskins just might have a running game to go with their high-octane passing attack.

Q: We were ready to start the coach countdown. So it’s too early to talk about Spurrier’s future?

A: The Redskins seemed like a solid, well-coached bunch — except on special teams. We knew they had upgraded personnel but had no idea how it would come out and play. There’s no reason to be thinking about Spurrier’s job security this morning. Wait until after the Atlanta game.

Q: What was Ifeanyi Ohalete thinking when he speared Curtis Martin in the first quarter?

A: Probably about those shorts Britney Spears was wearing. That penalty wasn’t just dumb — it was costly. The Jets would have had third-and-8, and instead they got a first down near midfield and drove for their only touchdown. Ohalete redeemed himself a bit, though, in the second quarter with a deep break-up on Santana Moss.

Q: That Robert Royal must be tough. How come safety Jon McGraw was the one to get injured on Royal’s catch in the second quarter?

A: McGraw made a stupid tackle, leading with his helmet. His head seemed to get compressed as it drove into Royal’s helmet. McGraw was lucky neither player was injured worse. Even though he got the bum end of that one, he should still draw a fine from the league.

Q: So it was a finely tuned performance all-around?

A: Yeah, except for the game-day operations. First, they had everybody standing before the national anthem. Then they cut late to it when it actually started. Then Wayne Chrebet catches a 12-yard pass, and the announcer tries to get everybody to chant “Smoooot.” Come on. First downs for the other team don’t get cheered.

Q: Dude, you’re bitter. What about Laveranues Coles? When can we start up the fan club?

A: It’s time for every Redskins fan to learn how to spell that first name. Coles is the type of big-play receiver Washington has sought for years, the kind Michael Westbrook never could be. Even before he exploded last night, his work ethic in practice and in the classroom made his $13 million signing bonus seem like a bargain. He could be the straw that stirs the Redskins’ offense this year.

Q: What was that thing we saw in the second quarter after John Hall kicked?

A: That’s called a touchback. You may recall one from the early 1990s, back when Chip Lohmiller was the kicker. Seriously, though, Hall is a rock. He nailed a 50-yarder to cap Washington’s first drive, added a 22-yarder, then nailed the 33-yarder to win it. Washington’s revolving door at kicker finally has slammed shut.

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