A Kick-Start to Season

Coach Joe Gibbs would not say whether Patrick Ramsey, here getting sacked in the first quarter Sunday, or Mark Brunell will start next week in Dallas.
Coach Joe Gibbs would not say whether Patrick Ramsey, here getting sacked in the first quarter Sunday, or Mark Brunell will start next week in Dallas. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 12, 2005

The sellout crowd of 90,138 applauded late in the second quarter when quarterback Patrick Ramsey was able to leave the field under his own power, among several trainers, after a vicious hit left him dazed. But fans roared when backup Mark Brunell -- last year's whipping boy -- jogged onto the field as Ramsey's neck was being examined on the sideline.

Although Brunell guided three scoring drives in Washington's revamped offense, the team followed the same script from last year, including uncertainty at starting quarterback, during a defensive battle with the Chicago Bears. The only twist was that Washington's defense forced two turnovers -- a weakness last season -- leading to a 9-7 victory over the Bears at FedEx Field to open the season.

"For us it was just hard-fought," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We fought hard all day and kept slugging. That's about all you can say from our side. I was proud of our guys, because they had great heart like that."

Wide receiver Santana Moss, who finished with four catches for 96 yards, added, "When it comes down to getting that 'W,' any way you can do it, that's all that matters."

On a pleasantly sunny afternoon, the excitement was palpable from the opening kickoff of Gibbs's second season after an 11-year hiatus. But with almost nothing to applaud from an offense that committed three turnovers, spectators got into the act during Washington's pivotal defensive stops. Kyle Orton -- the first Bears rookie quarterback to start on opening day since 1954 -- was eventually confounded by Washington's blitz-heavy defense, helped by the crowd noise.

Spectators were loudest midway through the fourth quarter when the Bears drove to the Washington 34-yard line with a prime chance to take the lead. But after tailback Thomas Jones was halted for a three-yard loss, the Bears were called for three consecutive false starts. At one point, Orton covered his ears with his hands, attempting to block out the noise.

"That was FedEx Field the way I sure remember it," Gibbs said. "We needed everything we could get today to win this game.' "

Said linebacker LaVar Arrington: "It was loud on the field. That always creates opportunities for a defense when the crowd is loud like that."

Although Ramsey has a neck strain, the fourth-year veteran said that he was healthy enough to return in the third quarter. But Gibbs stuck with Brunell, bringing intrigue to who will be named the starting quarterback for next Monday night's road game against the Dallas Cowboys. "We'll have to see how all this shakes out," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that he had reservations about putting Ramsey back in the game because of his health and was pleased with Brunell's play.

Ramsey threw an interception on his second pass of the game, and his other two drives ended with fumbles, including his that was recovered by Chicago. Ramsey finished 6 of 11 for 105 yards with two sacks and a 49.4 passer rating.

"That was coach's call," Ramsey said. "I was obviously dinged. I tried to come off the field and I was a little woozy."

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