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A Bad Day From the Start

Early Turnovers, Big Returns Doom Redskins: Saints 43, Redskins 27

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 14, 2002; Page D01

The Washington Redskins gift-wrapped a game yesterday for a team that didn't need the help. All the good feelings generated by their victory and the emergence of their rookie quarterback the week before dissipated when the Redskins committed turnovers on their first four possessions. The New Orleans Saints cashed in those mistakes, scored touchdowns on a kickoff return and a punt return and coasted to a 43-27 triumph in front of 80,768 at FedEx Field.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey threw three first-quarter interceptions deep in Redskins territory in his first NFL start, and tailback Stephen Davis lost a fumble. Ramsey threw a fourth interception in the third quarter as the Saints (5-1) amassed 27 points off the Redskins' five turnovers. But there was plenty of blame to go around for the Redskins (2-3), as Ramsey was sacked seven times and the special teams yielded touchdowns to the Saints' Michael Lewis on a 90-yard kickoff return and an 83-yard punt return. Coach Steve Spurrier promised immediate changes while lambasting his club following the game.

The Redskins are hoping quarterback Patrick Ramsey learns to feel comfortable scrambling instead of taking hits from the defense. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

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"As a team, it doesn't look like we care if we win the game or not," Spurrier said. "It's pitiful watching us play right now. We'll try to make some corrections. We'll try to find out the guys that want to bust their tails and play their assignments, and those that don't. We've got to make changes if we can't get them to play and play disciplined. Obviously, we looked like a very poorly coached team -- offense, defense, special teams, every one of us. Until we can get some consistent effort and discipline and responsibility, we're going to struggle all year."

Spurrier said he will stick with Ramsey as his starting quarterback, but added: "We've got to make some changes. I can't watch this. Redskins fans can't watch this. They're not going to pay good money to watch a bunch of guys play like we did. We're going to try to correct it and go from there. . . . We're just going to watch the tape and put guys on the field who are going to hustle. If we have to take a guy off the practice squad, shoot, we'll do that."

The refrain has become too familiar to the Redskins, who are 1-2 at home this season and 9-10 at FedEx Field since the beginning of the 2000 season.

"You can't let someone come into your house, slap you around and eat all your food," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "We need to stop that. We need to guard our home better."

The defense was not blameless, as the Saints scored touchdowns on third-and-17 and third-and-13 plays. Safety Sam Shade was victimized for a 58-yard completion from Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks to wide receiver Lewis late in the second quarter, leading to a New Orleans field goal, and Shade and cornerback Fred Smoot were outmaneuvered by wideout Joe Horn for a 41-yard pass play late in the third quarter to set up a touchdown. Brooks threw for three touchdowns, and New Orleans tailback Deuce McAllister rushed for 121 yards on 29 carries.

But the Redskins limited the Saints to field goals after Ramsey's first two interceptions gave New Orleans the ball at the 5- and 9-yard lines. Reserve safety Ifeanyi Ohalete had a second-quarter touchdown on a 78-yard interception return, as the Redskins got to within 26-21 after trailing 20-0.

But Shade's misplay and a 36-yard field goal by Saints place kicker John Carney as time expired in the first half stretched New Orleans's advantage to 29-21 at the break. Lewis provided his second touchdown return of the day in the third quarter, and Ramsey's fourth interception led to a 31-yard touchdown pass from Brooks to wide receiver Jake Reed on the initial play of the fourth quarter. That made it 43-21 and ended the competitive portion of the day.

"It was another very, very disappointing home game, a game that basically we're not smart enough to give ourselves a chance to win -- all the careless penalties, the careless turnovers here and there, our third-down defense, a special-teams play here and there," Spurrier said.

In his NFL debut the week before, Ramsey threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions and led the Redskins to a 31-14 win at Tennessee after taking over for an injured Danny Wuerffel one series into the game. But when the Redskins made the decision to go with a rookie quarterback, they knew there would be bad to go with the good.

On the Redskins' third offensive play yesterday, Ramsey stepped up in the pocket and threw for wide receiver Rod Gardner in the middle of the field. But safety Jay Bellamy stepped in front of Gardner and made the interception. New Orleans took over at the Redskins 5 but had to settle for Carney's 21-yard field goal.

Ramsey threw a second-down interception the next time the Redskins had the ball, sending a pass directly to safety Sammy Knight while being hit by defensive end Darren Howard, who had three sacks. The Saints took over at the 9 after a personal foul on Redskins center Larry Moore, but Horn dropped a would-be touchdown pass from Brooks on third down and Carney connected from 23 yards.

"The first two, he threw right to the guy," Spurrier said. "I don't know if he was getting hit or what he was doing. . . . I said, 'Patrick, when you get hung up, now, you just need to throw it away or run it up in there and fall with it.' I don't know where he was throwing some of those. Hopefully, he can learn from it. That's almost what you have to go do -- let a young guy go play, learn from his errors and go from there."

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