ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., Oct. 19 -- It was only three weeks ago that the Washington Redskins looked close to being a good team, with most of the parts in place but just needing to work out a few kinks. That seems like a long time ago now. Their once-promising season was smashed into tiny pieces Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium when they were overrun by the Buffalo Bills, 24-7, for their third straight loss, and Coach Steve Spurrier was left questioning his players' effort level and promising major changes.
"We've got to regroup and find out who really wants to play," Spurrier said. "I don't know how much fight we had in our team out there tonight. I thought we were going to, but obviously we didn't have the fight the whole game. We've got to get a team that wants to compete and play the game because it was embarrassing the way we played."
"Ever since Mike came I kind of figured it would happen eventually," said 11-year veteran Kevin Mitchell, above, of currently injured linebacker Mike Barrow, 34. The Redskins must pare their roster down to 65 players by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
(John McDonnell - Washington Post File Photo)
The Redskins head into their bye week ensured of a winless October, with two weeks to stew before a Nov. 2 game at Dallas against the NFC East-leading Cowboys. They also have to lick some wounds. The Redskins had five fill-in starters, and quarterback Patrick Ramsey failed to finish a second consecutive game when he suffered a bruised right hand on a fourth-quarter hit by Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel. Tailback Ladell Betts fractured a bone in his left forearm, and left tackle Chris Samuels finished the game on the bench because of a pinched nerve in his neck.
"We've had a lot of bad times, a lot of bad feelings," Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen said. "This is one of the worst."
The Bills (4-3) began the day with the NFL's last-ranked offense and were without injured wide receiver Eric Moulds but outgained the Redskins 432 yards to 169. Struggling tailback Travis Henry ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Drew Bledsoe completed 19 of 26 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown to wideout Josh Reed, who had eight catches for 109 yards. The Bills held Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith without a sack in his return to Buffalo.
Ramsey threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rod Gardner that got the Redskins to 10-7 in the third quarter. But he completed only 9 of 26 passes for 115 yards, and the Redskins rushed for only 56 yards. Ramsey was charged with three fumbles in a two-play span in the second quarter, the first when the ball was inadvertently knocked from his hand by Redskins rookie left guard Derrick Dockery on a third-down play from the Buffalo 1-yard line. Bills safety Lawyer Milloy fell on the ball to halt one of the Redskins' few scoring chances.
"It seemed like the whole roof caved in," Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn said.
The Redskins trailed by 10 points before they even managed a first down. They went three plays and out on their first offensive series, which included a false-start penalty on tight end Byron Chamberlain. Their second possession began at their 9-yard line and featured three rushing attempts by Betts that totaled four yards.
The Bills, meantime, took advantage of Redskins cornerback Rashad Bauman, starting in place of Fred Smoot, on their opening drive. He missed a tackle on the Bills' third play, a 12-yard completion to Reed. Bauman allowed Henry to get to the outside on the next play for a nine-yard run, then was beaten by Reed for a catch and a 17-yard gain.
Henry, who entered the game averaging 2.7 yards per carry this season, ran for 27 yards on seven carries on the opening drive. But the Bills had to settle for a field goal by Rian Lindell and a 3-0 lead when, on third and goal from the Redskins 1, Henry tripped over the foot of left guard Ruben Brown. Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington put a touch on the fallen running back for a one-yard loss.
The Bills benefited from a personal foul against Arrington for a hit out of bounds on wide receiver Antonio Brown on their next possession. But they allowed linebacker Jessie Armstead to go unblocked for a sack, and Brown committed a holding penalty. Buffalo had to punt after Smith pressured Bledsoe into a third-and-21 incompletion.
Buffalo had far better luck the next time it had the ball. A 16-yard gain on a completion to fullback Sam Gash became a 26-yard gain when Arrington punched the ball out of Gash's arm, only to have it sail directly to Bills wide receiver Bobby Shaw. A third-and-12 dump-off to Henry got the Bills 13 yards and a first down at the Redskins 9. An offside penalty on Arrington moved the ball to the 4, and Henry weaved his way into the end zone on a first-down carry.
The Redskins did their best to respond immediately, heading straight down the field. Ramsey started with a completion to wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who absorbed a hit for a nine-yard gain. Betts ran for six yards. Coles got behind cornerback Antoine Winfield on a post pattern. Ramsey had time to throw and lofted an on-target pass. Coles made the grab for a 47-yard play, and only an ankle tackle by Winfield kept him out the end zone. That would become significant.
The catch moved the Redskins to the Buffalo 7. Ramsey's first-down pass was batted down for an incompletion, but he connected with wideout Darnerien McCants for six yards. On third and goal from the 1, Ramsey took the snap and turned to hand the ball to running back Rock Cartwright. But Dockery accidentally poked the ball from Ramsey's hand as he scurried to make a pulling block on the right side of the line.
"I couldn't even tell you what happened," Dockery said. "I was trying to get over there where I needed to be."
The folly continued after the Redskins got the ball back on a punt. Ramsey lost the ball on a play-action fake, but picked it up and remained intent upon making a throw. He was stripped by linebacker Jeff Posey, however. Coles made the recovery, and the Redskins managed a four-yard gain on the play. The teams swapped missteps for the remainder of the half.
Ramsey nearly threw an interception on the first play of the second half, but the Redskins caught a break when Buffalo defensive tackle Pat Williams was called for a roughing-the-quarterback personal foul. Chad Morton gave the Redskins a lift with a pair of eight-yard runs and a six-yard scamper. He got a first down on a third-and-three swing pass, and Cartwright bulled for another first down with a five-yard run on a fourth-and-one gamble by Spurrier. Even a holding call on Dockery didn't matter when Gardner made a superb catch in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
The Bills, though, ensured the game wouldn't be close for long, marching 80 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 advantage. Tight end Ryan Neufeld picked up 25 yards with his first reception of the season. On first down, Bledsoe faked left and rolled right, then found Reed for a 10-yard touchdown in a reprisal of the play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used repeatedly against the Redskins the week before.
The Redskins got a fumble by Bledsoe late in the third quarter but did nothing with it, and the defensive collapse became complete early in the fourth quarter. The Bills steamrolled their way to a 17-point lead when Henry finished a 14-yard touchdown run by plowing over Redskins reserve safety Todd Franz.
The Bills began hitting Ramsey on virtually every play from there. He got up slowly after a hit by Winfield, then was knocked out of the game with just more than nine minutes remaining on Schobel's hit on the next play. Rob Johnson, a former Bill, entered the game to boos and was sacked on his second snap.
Said Spurrier: "I thought our guys were ready to play . . . . Either we're not very good, or we're just not playing with the effort that's needed to play the game . . . . Obviously we've got a lot of regrouping to do. We've got a lot of regrouping to do to see if we can find some guys who will compete . . . . I've been frustrated a lot before, but this was one of the lows. It seems like we lost our fight, lost our drive."