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In Miami, a Full Swoon

Offense, Defense and Special Teams Fail in Fourth

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2003; Page D01

MIAMI, Nov. 23 -- The Washington Redskins were about to craft a feel-good victory on the exploits of a quarterback who began the night with three NFL passes on his résumé, but once more they failed to apply the finishing touches. The offense sputtered late. The special teams unit committed a costly gaffe. And the defense permitted the Miami Dolphins to use a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome a 13-point deficit and beat the Redskins, 24-23, Sunday night before 73,578 at Pro Player Stadium.

Tim Hasselbeck took over for beaten-up quarterback Patrick Ramsey and led the Redskins (4-7) to leads of 20-7 and 23-10. But a defense that was ranked 26th among the league's 32 teams entering the game couldn't make the leads stand, just as it couldn't hold a late lead the week before in a defeat at Carolina.

It's crunch time for Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who gets knocked out of the game by Miami defensive end Jason Taylor. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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"He deserved to be a winner tonight," Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier said. "But it didn't work out tonight for all of us. We're all losers now."

Jay Fiedler took over for benched Dolphins quarterback Brian Griese in the final moments of the third quarter and fueled Miami's comeback. Tailback Ricky Williams got the Dolphins (7-4) to 23-17 with a one-yard touchdown leap with 10 minutes 24 seconds to play, then put them in front with a 24-yard scoring scamper with 4:19 left.

The Redskins' last chances were snuffed when Hasselbeck was intercepted by Miami safety Brock Marion, then Patrick Johnson fumbled Matt Turk's punt with two minutes to go.

"We've got to find a way to finish," cornerback Champ Bailey said after the Redskins' sixth loss in their past seven games. "This is terrible. . . . I've been living this for four years. It's frustrating. . . . We [messed] it up bad. We find a way to lose. We're not playing like we're winners. We're in position to do things. We just don't do them."

Said middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter: "I don't understand. Every week we find a way to lose games. Coming down the stretch, we just don't make plays. That's the bottom line. We work as hard as anybody to do things right, but we don't."

Ramsey started the game but lasted only two series, suffering a slight concussion when he was slammed to the turf on a sack. The Redskins also lost left tackle Chris Samuels to a sprained right knee. The severity of the injury likely will be determined on Monday.

Hasselbeck took over and led the Redskins to scores on three straight drives. He threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Laveranues Coles, and tailback Trung Canidate provided a two-yard touchdown run. Place kicker John Hall had three field goals on the night when Spurrier returned to being the primary offensive play-caller and defensive end Bruce Smith tied the NFL's career sacks record.

Griese had an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver James McKnight on Miami's first possession, but the crowd was booing him and the Miami offense soon thereafter and the Redskins seemingly were headed to an uplifting victory.

"It's amazingly frustrating," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "I thought we had figured some things out when we were winning early in the season. Somehow, we forgot what it was like. We forgot what it was about."

The night didn't have a promising beginning for the Redskins. On the Dolphins' third play, Griese threw a short sideline pass to McKnight. But David Terrell -- who continued to serve as the Redskins' third cornerback even with Rashad Bauman back from an ankle injury -- went for the ball and didn't get it, putting himself out of position to make the tackle. Safety Matt Bowen took a bad angle and couldn't push McKnight out of bounds, and he raced down the sideline to the end zone.

Ramsey nearly threw an interception on his first pass, and failed to move the Redskins on their opening possession. Ramsey started the game after testing his injured right foot by making some throws a few hours before kickoff. He is suffering from a bone bruise and the aggravation of an old fracture, and the Redskins didn't know all week whether Ramsey or Hasselbeck would be their starter. Hasselbeck got all of the practice-field work on Wednesday and Thursday.

Terrell redeemed himself when he grabbed a pass by Griese -- deflected at the line of scrimmage by linebacker LaVar Arrington -- for an interception to end Miami's second possession. His 20-yard return gave the Redskins the ball at the Dolphins 8-yard line.

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