- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

Two games into their five-game exhibition schedule, a few things are becoming abundantly clear for the Washington Redskins.

• Patrick Ramsey has done little to deserve winning the starting quarterback derby.

• Mark Brunell has done just enough to retain his status as Joe Gibbs’ presumptive choice.

• It’s a good thing Gibbs has three more preseason games because after last night’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Carolina Panthers, his team hardly looks ready for competition that actually counts in the standings.

“They’re playing hard, and if we keep doing that, we’re going to win football games,” Gibbs said. “But we’re making way too many mistakes. We’ve got a lot to learn.”

Five nights after pulling off a haphazard 20-17 victory over the Denver Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game, the Redskins again slogged their way through 60 minutes of ugly exhibition football.

Whoops, make that 68 minutes. With the score tied at the end of the fourth quarter, the two teams had no choice but to keep playing. Carolina’s John Kasay finally ended it by drilling a 52-yard field goal with 7:31 to go in overtime.

The sloppy play and conditions didn’t keep an announced crowd of 58,876 from sticking around for most of the night to witness Gibbs’ FedEx Field debut. The mere sight of the Hall of Fame coach back on the sideline wearing a Redskins hat and windbreaker was enough to keep those fans who showed up satisfied on an otherwise forgettable night.

It’s unlikely Gibbs emerged with much satisfaction over his team’s play. Aside from a couple of big second-half plays, Washington did little to impress its coaching staff.

Ramsey in particular struggled through a rough night. Given the opportunity to start after backing up Brunell in the exhibition opener, the third-year quarterback looked out of sorts during his one-plus quarter of action.

Under center for five offensive series, Ramsey produced zero points. He was a dismal 4-for-11 for 62 yards, was intercepted once, sacked once and twice botched the exchange from center Lennie Friedman.

In his defense, Ramsey was playing with a wet ball, the result of the few remnants of Hurricane Charley that sideswiped the area yesterday evening.

Still, it’s safe to say Gibbs expected more out of the 25-year-old quarterback, who is running out of time to reclaim the starting job he once held.

Ramsey had to figure he was in for a bad night when he botched the game’s first snap, barely recovering in time to hand the ball off to Clinton Portis for no gain.

Things only went downhill from there, with Ramsey nearly throwing an interception on the next play. He consistently looked uncomfortable in the pocket, at times holding onto the ball too long or floating ill-advised passes into heavy coverage.

Ramsey converted just one big play — a 34-yard bomb to Laveranues Coles just before he was drilled by defensive tackle Brentson Buckner. Two plays later, though, Ramsey’s fade pass to Coles came up well short and wound up in the hands of cornerback Dante Wesley.

After five uneventful series, Gibbs pulled his starter (who is now 7-for-19 for 74 yards in two games) and turned the offense over to Brunell and the rest of the second team.

“We made a lot of mistakes on offense, period,” Gibbs said. “Our quarterbacks were a part of it. We’re doing enough from a mistake standpoint that it’s got us concerned.”

The veteran quarterback, coming off a disappointing debut of his own, fared slightly better this time around. He immediately found wide-open H-back Chris Cooley for a 24-yard gain, helping set up a 23-yard field goal by John Hall that tied the game 3-3 in the second quarter.

Brunell remained on the field for much of the third quarter with mixed results. His third-down pass to Darnerien McCants was tipped by cornerback Hank Poteat and intercepted by linebacker Brandon Short. Moments later, though, Brunell atoned himself with a pretty rainbow to McCants for a 61-yard touchdown that brought the night’s biggest roar from the crowd.

The long bomb provided the perfect exit for Brunell, who departed having completed six of 15 passes for 119 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The rest of the night featured the usual comedy of errors typically found in the preseason. The two teams combined to commit 24 penalties, helping slow the pace of the game down to a crawl at times.

Third-string quarterback Tim Hasselbeck engineered two scoring drives — capped by a 14-yard Sultan McCullough touchdown run and a 34-yard Ola Kimrin field goal — to give the Redskins a 20-17 lead.

The Panthers, though, came back to tie the game on John Kasay’s 37-yard field goal with 23 seconds left in regulation and send it to overtime.

By far the strangest moment of the night came four minutes in, when a punt by Carolina’s Todd Sauerbrun deflected off back judge Steve Freeman at the 1-yard line, leading to all sorts of confusion. Referee Bernie Kukar originally placed the ball at the 1, then after a long conference moved it to the 20, only to send it back to the 2 after Panthers coach John Fox successfully challenged the play.

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