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End-of-the-Year Giveaway

Turnovers Cost Redskins Any Chance at Postseason

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 9, 2002; Page D16

Rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey provided some slivers of hope for next season and beyond, but the present remained bleak for the Washington Redskins. Their slide continued as they committed five turnovers and lost to the New York Giants, 27-21, in front of 78,635 yesterday at FedEx Field.

The Redskins (5-8) lost for the fourth time in five games and were officially eliminated from playoff contention. They remained winless against NFC East opponents and ensured they will not have a winning record in Steve Spurrier's first season as an NFL head coach.

Coach Steve Spurrier tries to get his point across to wide receiver Darnerien McCants during the second half of Sunday's loss to the Giants. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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Spurrier's offense rolled up 447 yards, and Ramsey led the Redskins on two touchdown drives after starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel reinjured his right shoulder in the third quarter. But a fumbled punt by Champ Bailey gave the Giants (7-6) a third-quarter touchdown that extended their lead to 10 points, and wide receiver Darnerien McCants's fumble at the New York 30-yard line with just more than four minutes to play cost the Redskins their last legitimate opportunity to win.

"We had a pretty good chance to beat them, but we couldn't do it," Spurrier said. "We didn't get it done. . . . We did some good things, but we had five turnovers. It would have been fun to see what we could have done on that last drive, but Darnerien didn't put the ball away and they slapped it out."

Spurrier named Ramsey the club's starter for next Sunday's game at Philadelphia and, barring an injury or another change of heart, probably will go with the first-round draft choice for the remainder of the season. It is the Redskins' fifth starting-quarterback change. They hope they won't have to make another one for a decade or so.

Ramsey had only 12 completions in 27 throws yesterday, but amassed 204 passing yards and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to wideout Rod Gardner late in the third quarter to get the Redskins, after a two-point conversion pass, to within 17-14. Ramsey energized the Redskins just as he did in October, when he relieved an injured Wuerffel and led the team to a win at Tennessee in his pro debut.

Now Ramsey must try to do better as a starter than he did in October defeats to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, and convince Redskins officials that they can count on him to be the club's starting quarterback heading into next season.

"The two games I started were against pretty good football teams, and I didn't play well," Ramsey said. "I want to win a game as a starter. I want to win all three of them. That's my goal, and then I'll let next year take care of itself. . . . I'm much further along than I was. I feel good about my progress. I feel good about my chances when I go in a football game."

The Redskins never led in the game and threw 46 passes and had only 20 carries after Spurrier said he regretted his conservative, run-oriented play-calling at times during the team's Thanksgiving loss at Dallas and on other occasions. Tailback Stephen Davis ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on only 12 carries. The Redskins undermined themselves with an interception thrown by Wuerffel and five fumbles, four recovered by the Giants. The Redskins also surrendered six sacks, five with Wuerffel in the game, and had a missed field goal and a dozen penalties.

Tailback Tiki Barber ran for 96 yards and a touchdown for the Giants, and quarterback Kerry Collins threw for two touchdowns in a 17-for-31, 212-yard passing day.

The Redskins had the afternoon's first scoring chance, but new place kicker Jose Cortez pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right in the first quarter. The Giants moved in front on a 42-yard field goal by Matt Bryant and, after a fumble by Redskins wide receiver Derrius Thompson, extended their lead to 10-0 in the second quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass from Collins to fullback Charles Stackhouse. Linebacker LaVar Arrington hit Collins from behind just as the quarterback threw the ball on the third-and-goal play, but the floating pass got to Stackhouse ahead of safety David Terrell.

Bryant yanked a 37-yard field goal try wide left, but the Giants pushed their advantage to 17-0 late in the second quarter. Wuerffel was intercepted by cornerback Ralph Brown on an ill-advised pass as he rolled to his right. The Giants took over at the Redskins 34, and scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Collins to wide receiver Amani Toomer against Bailey.

The Redskins got a break when Giants defensive end Michael Strahan was called for a delay-of-game penalty for pinning guard Wilbert Brown to the ground in the final seconds of the half after Wuerffel was tackled inbounds on a scramble. The Redskins were out of timeouts and couldn't have gotten the kick off without Strahan's help, but Cortez connected from 24 yards as time expired.

The Redskins' first drive of the second half ended with rookie Craig Jarrett's second NFL punt being downed at the Giants 2. The Redskins forced a punt and got possession at the New York 43. Wuerffel was sacked on the first play, hurting his shoulder when he was slammed to the turf by defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. Enter Ramsey, whose first pass was a three-yard completion to rookie running back Ladell Betts. He sidestepped the rush on the next play and threw a dart to Thompson for a 19-yard gain on third and 13.

The Redskins had to settle for Cortez's 44-yard field goal, but got the ball back after a third-down sack by defensive end Bruce Smith and drove 55 yards for a touchdown. Davis broke free for a 33-yard run, and Gardner beat veteran cornerback Jason Sehorn to catch Ramsey's scoring throw. Ramsey's two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Chris Doering got the Redskins within three points, and the Giants went three plays and out.

But Bailey, after waving for a fair catch, couldn't handle Matt Allen's punt, and Kato Serwanga -- just signed by the Giants after being released off the Redskins' injured reserve list -- recovered the fumble at the Washington 21.

"I just misjudged it," Bailey said. "I thought the ball was going deeper than it was, and I dropped it. It hurt us. When you commit turnovers like that, you lose the game, simple as that."

Rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey rumbled to the 1 on a pass from Collins, and Barber got into the end zone on the next play. Bryant's 35-yard field goal just over four minutes into the fourth quarter made it 27-14, but the Redskins didn't wilt. Ramsey had completions of 36 yards to Thompson and 18 yards to Gardner to get the Redskins into position for Davis's one-yard touchdown run. The Giants had to punt, and the Redskins moved into Giants territory on a 24-yard gain by Betts on a screen pass.

After a two-yard run by Davis, Ramsey hit McCants for a 12-yard gain. But Serwanga, as he tackled McCants, punched the ball free just before McCants's knees hit the ground, and safety Shaun Williams scooped up the ball. The Redskins tried an instant-replay challenge, claiming that McCants was on the ground before he fumbled, but that was rejected. They got the ball back at their 17 with 55 seconds left, and reached their 46 before Ramsey's desperation heave into the end zone was batted away by Sehorn on the game's final play.

"I felt like I did some things well," Ramsey said. "There were some things I could have done better. We didn't win, so I'm not real fired up about my performance."

© 2002 The Washington Post Company