Football fans were treated to a gem to kick off the 2003 NFL season. Well-played, well contested, the game had everything that a fan could ask for -- especially a Redskin fan.
As John Hall took his three step backs from the ball, looked up and saw 8 seconds on the clock, could he have known that Redskins' fans everywhere were in the middle of a panic attack? Hundreds of thousands of fans held their collective breath as they flashed back to names like Heppner, Conway, Cortez, etc. It didn't look like Hall was cognizant of it at all as he banged the 32-yarder through the uprights to give Washington a hard-fought 16-13 victory in their season premiere. It capped off a perfect night for the former Jets kicker who went 3 for 3 with a 22 and a 50 yarder to go along with the game winner.
Hall wasn't the only former Jet that lit up his former team. Laveranues Coles was stellar in a 5-catch 106 yard first half performance. He failed to add to his totals in the second half, but the damage was already done. It was Coles' 25 yard reception on the Redskins' first drive that got them in to field goal position, and it was his 48-yarder (game high) that got the Redskins second FG drive in to gear. Truthfully, the Jets struggled to cover him all night long.
The Redskins used a well-balanced attack to keep the tough Jets defense on its heels all night long. Steve Spurrier, while renowned for his passing antics, relied heavily on Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts to move the sticks. Both tailbacks responded beautifully. Betts looked worthy of the second round pick spent on him, piling up 77 yards on just 18 carries, including some tough, between-the-tackles runs. Canidate looked equally impressive, going 46 yards on his 10 carries and handled the ball confidently in traffic. With 34 running plays to only 23 passing, Coach 'defied convention' to orchestrate a typical NFC East victory.
Of course, the play of the offense hinges on one man -- quarterback Patrick Ramsey. Did last night mark the start of this season's version of Chad Pennington? The parallels are undeniable, and the analogy most convenient considering this week's victim, but could P-Ram put up the kind of year that the Jets future superstar did in 2002? It sure looked like it last night. The second-year gunslinger from Tulane was unconscious in the first half posting a near-perfect 12 of 13 for 144 yards (169 passing yards less sack yardage). Ramsey hit Darnerian McCants for the Redskins first, and only touchdown of the game with a 4-yard pass deep in the end zone.
The offense depended on the running game heavily in the second half, and Ramsey finished the game 17 of 23 for 185 yards with a TD and an INT.
But it was a running play by Ramsey that made the difference last night. With just over two minutes to go, Ramsey rolled out of the pocket, showed pass, and seeing the Jets defense all down field in coverage, took off on a rare 24 yard scamper to the Jet 31 yard. Smart play. Three more Betts runs, then Hall's game winner, and Ramsey had his first victory of the season.
The Jets fought a valiant battle. Trailing 13-10 with less than 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Jets got a break when John Abraham forced a Ramsey fumble and Jason Ferguson recovered at the Redskins' 43-yard line. However, New York failed to mount a drive and had to settle for a 41-yard Doug Brien field goal to knot the score at 13-13 with 8:13 left.
It was just one of many great series from a staunch Redskin defense. In his first game as Washington's defensive co-ordinator, George Edwards had Skins fans scratching their heads and asking, 'Marvin who?'. A combination of preparation and good play calling allowed Edwards and the defense to stymie the Jets to only 158 total yards of offense. Perennial powerhouse Curtis Martin was held to just 48 yards rushing on 15 carries. Pennington's replacement, 39-year-old veteran Vinny Testaverde, managed just 105 yards passing going 15 for 24. It was the Jets lowest offensive output for 6 years and marked the lowest total allowed by a Washington defensive unit since the Gibbs era. Lavar Arrington was all over the field and Jeremiah Trotter was an inside force, something that the much publicized run defense will need in order to have any success this year.
The Jets made very few mistakes and played a very disciplined game registering just one penalty. But in the end, it was the mistakes that the Jets made in the offseason that cost them. New York may have not seen the value in signing Laveranues Coles and John Hall to the necessary contracts... but Redskins' fans got a glimpse of what the Jets passed on last night.