- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

PHILADELPHIA.

For weeks we’ve wondered how the Redskins would do “with any kind of quarterbacking.” By that, of course, it was meant: “with any kind of NFL-quality quarterbacking” (or, more to the point, “with anybody but Mark Brunell”).

Well, we finally got a glimpse yesterday, about a month too late, and the early returns were encouraging.

With a quarterback willing to stand in the pocket and able to make the routine throws neither of which Brunell seemed capable of the Redskins can indeed move the football and occasionally even convert a third down. What’s more, they can do it against the best team in the NFC (and on the road, to boot).

The Redskins didn’t beat the Eagles, but they did give them something to think about, well into the fourth quarter, before going down 28-6 at Lincoln Financial Field.

The result wasn’t a foregone conclusion until the Snydermen, trailing by eight, drove to the Philadelphia 10 with 13:49 left and then proceeded to stumble and bumble their way backward until Ola Kimrin faced the daunting task of kicking a 48-yard field goal. Naturally, he missed.

Until then, though, there was genuine hope not because Mr. Ramsey did anything spectacular, but because he managed to hit the flat passes and quick slants and assorted other shorties that were so problematical for his predecessor.

It’s amazing what a difference it can make when your QB can consistently get the ball to his receivers on the fly. (For one thing, they can run with it after they catch it.)

In the aforementioned drive to the Philly 10, Ramsey had consecutive completions of 5, 14, 9 and 9 yards. Not the stuff of Canton, I grant you, but when was the last time No.8 had a run like that with the game still on the line, I mean?

Now, Joe Gibbs didn’t exactly hand Patrick a game plan the size of an unabridged dictionary. In fact, if yesterday’s strategy was any more simplified, it would have borne the Sesame Street trademark. What Coach Joe essentially asked the kid to do was to dink here, dunk there and Not Mess Up pretty much, come to think of it, what he had been asking Brunell to do.

“But it was very effective for the most part,” Ramsey said, “and it kinda kept us in the ballgame. Sometimes trying to force it downfield can cause interceptions that change the momentum.”

Until things unraveled in the late going, Patrick was 20 of 30 for 154 yards, with no picks (and several drops). Had their quarterback put up numbers like that in a few other games, the Redskins probably would be a .500 club right now instead of 3-7 and sinking fast.

When Ramsey was asked to (which wasn’t often), he was able to put the ball in some tight spots; he also showed his coach he could make smart decisions and wasn’t really the Turnover Machine he appeared to be against the Giants.

“Very solid,” Gibbs said of Ramsey’s performance. “A lot of poise.”

Given the bouquets Coach Joe continually tossed Brunell’s way, any praise he gives his quarterback should be approached with caution. But the evaluation, it turns out, is fairly accurate. Perhaps he’d forgotten that Ramsey is no neophyte, that he has started 16 games in his brief career and played well in a number of them.

If Gibbs ever gets to the point where he trusts Patrick, and opens up the offense just a wee bit, he might be pleasantly surprised.

But that’s going to take a major attitude adjustment on his part. A comment he made yesterday kind of sums up his offensive approach this season. “When you play Philly,” he said, “you have to be careful.”

Actually, the offense has been playing “careful,” exceedingly “careful,” just about every week. Defensive offense, you might call it. Don’t do anything to put our defense in a bind. Try to take advantage of good field position when you get it, but otherwise stay out of the way and let the “D” win the game for us.

The nadir was the second half of the Detroit game, when Brunell threw a grand total of two passes. That’s about as close as you can get to a vote of no confidence. I mean, it wasn’t like the Redskins were playing the Lions in the snow on Christmas Eve; they were indoors, for goodness sakes.

In the coming weeks, maybe Coach Joe will stop being quite so “careful,” stop showing opposing defenses quite so much respect. But that’s probably wishful thinking. With his offensive line suffering another loss yesterday Randy Thomas likely will miss a couple of games with a hamstring injury Gibbs is more apt to become more conservative, not less.

They’re such a study in contrasts, the Redskins are. The defense attacks, attacks, attacks, and the offense assumes the fetal position almost from the first snap. But at least the right quarterback is on the field now. We have that to be thankful for this week.

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