By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 27, 2005
The routine four-yard pass was worthy of a three-hug celebration, at least to Patrick Ramsey. The Washington Redskins' embattled starting quarterback was having another suspect preseason performance -- hastening the outcry for veteran Mark Brunell to take his job, perhaps -- when his soft touch pass found H-back Chris Cooley in the back of the end zone, ending his evening on a rare positive note.
Ramsey's touchdown tied this preseason game, in which the Redskins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-10, and was a welcome complement to his awful first-quarter wobbler that defensive back Troy Polamalu easily intercepted and returned for the opening score. Ramsey giveth and Ramsey taketh away, the story throughout his four-year career. For while his deep passing acumen and turnover ratio remain issues, he also managed to move the ball against the NFL's best defense, looked the part of a field general and engineered a rousing scoring drive under pressure to make for a climactic exit.
"It was big for us to punch that thing in and have a drive that was sustained," Ramsey said. "I felt good about it, obviously."
Washington's starting defense was superb again in the victory before 73,987 at FedEx Field, and Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington held up well in his first action in nearly a year. Coach Joe Gibbs's offense made ample gains, and the anger that filled him after last week's loss has dissipated.
"I was very pleased with both starting groups there," Gibbs said. "It's still preseason, but we needed a good lift."
The running game was robust, with 93 yards and a 4.9-yard average in the first half with Clinton Portis back in Pro Bowl form (eight carries for 48 yards) and the offensive line finding ways to get him free outside the tackles.
"The offensive line played phenomenally," Ramsey said.
Santana Moss, the new number one receiver, displayed his acceleration and elusiveness after the catch. But a tendency for undisciplined play remained, as drives stalled because of penalties for delay of game and too many men in the huddle.
"Playing smart was a big emphasis this week," Gibbs said, "and we still had a number of penalties. That's still a real concern."
Gibbs game-planned extensively with his offense in crisis after two preseason defeats. "We really treated it like a regular season game," tackle Jon Jansen said. To that end, Ramsey and the starting offense played the entire first half for the third straight game.
The quarterback completed 12 of 19 passes for 141 yards and an 81.2 rating (he entered the game with a 57.9 rating). Although punctuated by another huge turnover, "it looked like his best outing," Gibbs said.
He had completed just half of his passes prior to the final drive, but went 5 for 5 for 39 yards, converted a fourth down at the 6 on a keeper and, with 38 seconds left in the half, found Cooley, his favorite target, in the end zone ("He put it up perfect for me," Cooley said).
Ramsey, 29 for 49 in the preseason (59 percent), immediately leapt into Randy Thomas's arms, then did the same with tackle Chris Samuels before settling on Cooley for a final embrace.
"We both just said, 'That was a big play, man,' " Cooley said. "We needed it."
Perhaps Ramsey can be forgiven for his excess, for he has not experienced much preseason revelry. He has thrown four interceptions to two touchdowns in this preseason and was booed early and often last week.
Even after his interception last night, the crowd was more restrained with its wrath. Wide receiver James Thrash cut inside as linebacker Clark Haggans pressured Ramsey, and his pass fluttered in the opposite direction. For the second straight game a ball was earmarked for the wrong team, and Polamalu ran 34 yards for a score.
"It was just a lack of communication there," Ramsey said. "We'll watch the tape and get it straight."
The long passing game -- an element Gibbs is determined to resuscitate -- also remains unrefined. Ramsey underthrew several deep throws (one was still caught by Moss) and misfired out of bounds on two key third-and-long situations. He did hit David Patten, another newcomer, in stride for a 17-yard gain.
Brunell, 34, came on to start the third quarter, and thrived again, completing six straight passes -- Antonio Brown should have held onto the seventh -- in a quarter of work, and leading a 12-play, 85-yard drive that was capped by Rock Cartwright's 10-yard touchdown run. He then made way for first-round pick Jason Campbell (0 for 2), who made his first appearance before the home fans.
The Steelers, who went 15-1 in the 2004 regular season but have een unable to advance the ball this preseason, were no match for Washington's defense. The Redskins held them to 130 net yards in the first half, and more than a third of that came on Willie Parker's 51-yard run, the defense's sole blemish.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the darling of the NFL as a rookie, was 6 for 15 for 57 yards, while rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers, a week removed from being burned for a long touchdown, and veteran Shawn Springs helped negate Pittsburgh's vaunted receivers.