Week 2: Falcons
The Redskins faced another opponent as underrated as themselves on Sunday afternoon in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Without Mike Vick, people said, the Falcons were not capable of winning a game. Ramsey was young and unproven; he would be frightened by the noise and rattled by the sacks. Much to do was talked about before the game about Doug Johnson, Steve Spurrier and Mike Vick on the sidelines. Most would not have expected the shootout about to occur if you had queried experts standing on the sidelines. When the dust settled on one of the most prolific scoring games of the weekend, however, the Burgundy and Gold stood on top of the heap.
While Steve Spurrier indicated the rushing game was to be used, and used more frequently when indicated by the course of the game, he was not afforded the opportunity with the scoring taking place early and often by the Falcons. Patrick Ramsey rose to the occasion, however, head bloody but unbowed after the first half. After enduring a tremendous amount of pressure, including 10 hits, 3 pressures and 5 sacks, Patrick had brought the Skins back to within a touchdown by half. After having his left shoulder wrapped at halftime due to the pounding he received, he continued using his two favorite targets to disassemble the Falcons secondary while the line finally gave him the protection needed to actually throw from a pocket. Standing firm, not wavering, Ramsey completed 25 of 39 for a very respectable 64% completion rate. He picked the Falcons' limping secondary apart for 356 yards, a career high, and two touchdowns, both coming at the expense of Ray 'Big Play' Buchanan. There was an obvious attempt to include Gardner more this week, with Ramsey throwing to him early and often, though mostly while Ramsey was under pressure and thereby being off target. Gardner made a game effort trying to get to those, but to no avail in most circumstances. Once the Skins got on track with their protection, however, Gardner lassoed 9 catches for 118 yards and one of two touchdowns thrown by Ramsey. Our Hog Nose in the receiving department would have to be extended with honors to Laveranues Coles, however. This amazing receiver went down in the first half with back and neck spasms, yet came back into the game to continue competing. After going down again later, he still came back in after getting a neck massage on the sidelines to try and bring the spasms under control. He took numerous hits, blocked well, and ended up with a career day catching 11 passes for 180 yards and the other Ramsey touchdown strike. His incredible tenacity was a joy to watch and an example for Skins and their fans to follow. The passing game was an incredible sight to see when it was allowed to get on track by the offensive line and should put some critics to rest concerning Patrick in the future. Ramsey receives our other Hog Nose for the tenacity, toughness, accuracy, and leadership that he showed in this game.
While not as spectacular as the passing attack, the running of Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts opened up the soft underbelly of the Falcons defense. When the blitzes were stopped long enough to get the run game re - established, both backs made sure that the pressure was not going to restart on Ramsey. After only having 46 yards on 10 attempts in the game against the Jets, Trung showed Skins fans a bit more of that speed and shiftiness Sunday. Without a few of the mistakes the Skins made, such as holding or false starts, Trung could have played an even bigger part in the game. He had 15 carries, racking up 89 yards for a very healthy 5.9-yard per carry average. Ladell, combining with Trung for that one - two punch, had a less memorable performance than against the Jets, rushing 11 times for 34 yards and a touchdown of 13 yards. He also caught two passes for 18 yards, showing that his ability to receive out of the backfield is not an empty threat. To be fair to Ladell, most of his runs were in the latter part of the game when the Falcons were expecting them, and right into the heart of the middle of the defense. While that is more Ladell's game, as a time killing contingency towards the end you can expect a back's numbers to suffer from that. What it does not show is an observation made yesterday. The one - two punch that the two backs are providing can keep another team on its heels. If a team begins to shut down one running back, another comes in and changes the scope of the game. Trung, though he can get good gains up the middle in the latter part of the fourth quarter, is more adept receiving pitches and sweeps. The speed he shows getting to the outside, the ability to make the defense get worn out chasing him around outside the tackles proved invaluable against the smaller, supposedly faster Falcons defense. When the defense starts to show the wear and tear of chasing Trung, in comes Betts to shove the ball down their throats while they are still on their heels. An effective combination, one any boxer would be proud of. Our Hog Nose would have to go to Trung for an exciting running game, causing fans to hold their breaths in anticipation for that breakout game he is likely to have in the future.
While many in Washington might be talking about an early let down in the first quarter, the defense was put in some tough spots with the sack - fumbles caused by a porous offensive line. While the Falcons did put up 10 points, winning the field position battle early by derailing the offense shortened their field. After all, a long punt from deep in your own end of the field still gives the opponent the advantage. The middle of the line, once maligned, has once again held up against two more backs that are better than average. While the defense surrendered 99 yards rushing, most of those did not come via the middle highway that once used to be paved right through the middle of the defensive line. While Bruce was a large part in the turning point of the game, he was trap blocked early and often, allowing most of the running to come right past his position. Whitfield mastered him early and never let that mastery go. Bruce showed some of his spirit in getting in to harass Doug Johnson, but the running defense was never his strong point. The linebacking corps was phenomenal in their coverage and run stopping skills, as the fans hope to see all year. The threesome, once again, loomed like a storm cloud over the field, with thunderous hits on lightning strikes. There were not many passes thrown or runs attempted that the three linebackers were not present to stop. Their tipped balls, batted passes, screen crushing, and hard hitting run stopping had better make opponents and media alike think twice before coming through the line. Our Hog Nose would definitely have to be awarded to Jessie Armstead for his bone crushing hit on Doug Johnson in the endzone. He came in free and clear, Johnson freezing like a deer caught in the headlights watching rolling death approaching, and literally wrapped Johnson in a bear hug, creating the safety. Those two points ended up being the game winning score in the long run, and while it would be nice to award the Nose to all the linebackers, it would dilute what Armstead accomplished. The secondary, once again, was incredible. They blanketed receivers all day long, and while Johnson was not harassed as much as Patrick Ramsey, the secondary only allowed Johnson to complete 44.4% of his attempts. While they were burned deep for a touchdown late in the game, it marks the first true long pass given up by an oft-burned secondary last year. With Johnson only averaging 5.47 yards per attempt, the secondary has proven, once again, a force to be reckoned with. Our Hog Nose goes to Ifeyani Ohalete for the first interception during the comeback in the second quarter. His 30-yard return was electrifying, and helped continue the fire that eventually burned the Falcons' hopes to a cinder. His tackling was third on the team and he gave one up for the team with a tremendous hit on an upfield blocker during a kick return.
The punt and kick return coverage was less than stellar, once again allowing for a large return (the third in two games), while our main return specialist was limited to a mediocre 18 yards per return on kicks and one return for 5 yards on punts. Chad Morton, hampered by less than average blocking, did not amount to much of a factor in this game. Bryan Barker, however, may have earned a little respect, showing the leg he used to be famous for in Jacksonville. Before kicking short field punts, he had a respectable 50-yard punt average with 5 punts. His pooch punts were effective later in the game when punting to pin the Falcons back inside their own 20. David Terrell had one spectacular play in which he stopped the ball on the 5-yard line, and another in which he prevented the ball from going into the endzone. Unfortunately called back by the one special teams' penalty on the Skins, the second special teams' effort to down the ball on the 2 by Terrell was fun to watch and got the blood boiling. His hits and coverage were very good and will keep his presence on the field, if even just for special teams. John Hall earned the "What the hell was that" award for his first kick attempt from 51 yards out. The wounded duck never made it close to the uprights, but his second kick pierced them with room to spare from 54 yards. Our Hog Nose, however, would go to Barker for his long and short punts, both when we truly needed them. His part in the battle for field position is what helped keep the Skins in the game during the bleakest of times. Mike Stock needs to take a serious look at his blocking and coverage schemes - or someone needs to take a serious look at him before this grade even begins to rise.
This article was released on 2003-09-15.
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