NASHVILLE, Oct. 6 -- The future arrived today for the Washington Redskins, far sooner than Coach Steve Spurrier or rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey or most anyone else in the organization expected. Ramsey took over for injured starter Danny Wuerffel after only one series and led the Redskins to a critical victory, at least temporarily resolving who is the team's starting quarterback by throwing two touchdown passes in his NFL debut to help beat the reeling Tennessee Titans, 31-14.
Tailback Stephen Davis suffered a sprained knee ligament in the first quarter but returned in the second half to complete an 18-carry, 90-yard rushing performance. The defense forced four turnovers, three on interceptions by cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Champ Bailey, as the Redskins (2-2) won for the first time since the Sept. 8 season opener.
Patrick Ramsey will be the Redskins' third starting quarterback of the season, but they are optimistic that they have made their last switch for a while.
(John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
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_____Play of the Game_____ With 14:18 left in the fourth quarter, quarterback Patrick Ramsey throws a lateral to wide receiver Kevin Lockett (83), who drops the pass at the 19. The ball rolled to the 20, where Lockett picked it up, continued to roll right to the 23, then threw to running back Stephen Davis, who was wide open in the end zone.
Davis had slipped out of the backfield, past Tennessee defensive end Kevin Carter, and gone unmarked down field as the Titans linebackers and secondary shifted toward Lockett. The 14-yard score was Washington's last in its 31-14 victory, capping a five-play, 71-yard drive that took 2 minutes, 2 seconds.
"Hopefully we learned we can play this game," Spurrier said.
The Redskins could smile for the first time in almost a month, as their afternoon at The Coliseum ended with owner Daniel Snyder shouting congratulations and slapping hands with players as they entered the locker room. Snyder gave Ramsey a particularly enthusiastic embrace after the first-round draft choice rewarded the owner and the other front-office members who persuaded Spurrier to select the Tulane University quarterback rather than an offensive lineman in April.
Spurrier gave his former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida, Wuerffel, his first start in an NFL regular season game since 1998, and Wuerffel led the Redskins to a field goal. But he suffered a muscle strain in his right shoulder when he was slammed down on a scramble, and Spurrier had to turn to Ramsey, who had split practice-field snaps with Wuerffel the past two weeks.
Now, Ramsey will become the Redskins' third starting quarterback this season next Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at FedEx Field.
"We don't have to [worry] about who's going to play quarterback for a while," Spurrier said. "He's our guy. Hopefully he can stay healthy and hopefully he can keep getting better and go the distance. He played very well."
Ramsey completed 20 of 34 throws for 268 yards. He had touchdown passes of 20 yards to wide receiver Rod Gardner in the second quarter and 23 yards to wideout Kevin Lockett in the third quarter, and he didn't throw an interception.
"Things just kind of clicked out there," Ramsey said. "I did my job throwing the ball. Everybody else did an extraordinary job of taking care of their assignments and making it easier for me."
Spurrier said he awarded game balls to all of the offensive linemen, but Ramsey absorbed a few hard hits unflinchingly and delivered his throws with the sort of zip that the club's other quarterbacks can't muster.
"Coming into the game, I didn't know that he could step up with guys flying around him and make throws like he did," Spurrier said. "That was crucial. Anybody who says it doesn't matter who's playing back there is wrong. He avoided the rush here and there, stepped up and made a lot of good third-down plays and kept drives going."
The Redskins' offense had scored only one touchdown in losing its previous two games to the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers by a combined margin of 57-17. Things looked bleak early. Wuerffel sprinted to the locker room to have his shoulder examined following the opening drive, and Davis crumbled late in the first quarter when his right leg got twisted awkwardly while blocking cornerback Donald Mitchell on a blitz. Davis suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, according to Spurrier, but some on the Redskins' sideline feared initially that he had been lost for the season.
He wasn't, and he gritted his way to 59 rushing yards in the second half. He scored a third-quarter touchdown on a one-yard run, and caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Lockett in the opening minute of the fourth quarter on a botched gimmick play. Lockett dropped Ramsey's lateral, but picked up the ball quickly and threw it to the wide-open Davis for the touchdown.
The defense limited the Titans (1-4) to 59 rushing yards and 289 total yards. Tennessee tailback Eddie George managed only 26 yards on 10 carries against a defense that surrendered 252 rushing yards in San Francisco, but today more closely resembled the dominant unit it was supposed to be. Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair ran for one touchdown and threw for another, but was sacked four times and was intercepted twice by Smoot and once by Bailey.