Monday, November 29, 2004

Steelers 16, Redskins 7

from the official site of the Washington Redskins

The Redskins dropped to 3-8 on the season with a 16-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers used three field goals by kicker Jeff Reed, nifty running by Antwaan Randle El on several punt returns and a 100-yard effort by bulldozing running back Jerome Bettis to win the game.

The Redskins' defense was able to keep the game close, pressuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger repeatedly. The defense, ranked second overall in the NFL, limited the Steelers to just 207 total yards and 100 passing yards. Roethlisberger was sacked four times, twice by linebacker Marcus Washington and one each by Lemar Marshall and Chris Clemons.

But the Steelers' defense, ranked first overall in the NFL, was better. The Redskins managed 156 yards of total offense and just 51 rushing yards. Patrick Ramsey was 19-of-34 for 138 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Like Roethlisberger, Ramsey was under seemingly constant pressure, with the Steelers' defense registering five sacks.

"Our football team, I told them I was proud of them," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "I was proud to be with them. They fight each and every week, against two tough opponents two weeks in a row on the road. Our guys competed and fought their guts out. But we weren't able to get it today. Hopefully somewhere in there, there'll be a reward. That's what's in my thoughts."

Of Ramsey, who was making his second start of the season, Gibbs said: "My general feeling was, he competed and he's a tough guy--which is what he's showing. I think it was kind of all of us today."

The Redskins trailed Pittsburgh 13-0 at halftime. Late in the third quarter, the Redskins scored a touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Ramsey to H-back Chris Cooley. It was the Redskins' first touchdown since Week 9 against Cincinnati.

The 13-play, 79-yard drive included a 26-yard run by Ladell Betts and a 17-yard pass from Ramsey to Laveranues Coles that got the Redskins' offense to the Steelers' 4-yard line. One play later, a defensive pass interference penalty gave the Redskins a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

The Steelers' defense rose to the challenge, however, stuffing Betts twice at the goal line and breaking up a Ramsey pass to tight end Brian Kozlowski.

Down 13-0, Gibbs elected to go for the touchdown on fourth down instead of settling for a field goal. Ramsey dropped back to pass and connected with Cooley for the touchdown. Cooley had settled near the middle of the end zone and caught the ball despite two Pittsburgh defenders draped over him.

A few minutes later, the Steelers increased their lead to 16-7 when Reed kicked a 32-yard field goal.

In the first half, the Steelers used a pair of long punt returns by the fleet-footed, shifty Randle El to build a lead.

The game was scoreless until late in the first quarter, but both teams had good field position. On Pittsburgh's second drive of the game, Shawn Springs was called for a 32-yard pass interference penalty as he covered Randle El. The play gave the Steelers the ball at Washington's 24-yard line.

The Redskins' defense stiffened, thanks in part to a pair of young players seeing their first action of the season. First rookie defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti tackled Bettis for a two-yard loss. Then first-year linebacker Chris Clemons, signed by the team last week, sacked Roethlisberger for a 7-yard loss, putting the Steelers out of field goal range.

Late in the first quarter, Randle El had a 60-yard punt return to set up the game's first score. It was the Redskins' Washington, playing on punt coverage, who made the touchdown-saving tackle on Randle El as he sprinted down the left sideline. He was knocked out of bounds at the Redskins' 17-yard line.

The Redskins' defense stiffened again, stopping Bettis twice and forcing an incomplete pass. Pittsburgh had to settle for a field goal; Reed connected on a 33-yarder to give the Steelers an early 3-0 lead.

On the first play of the second quarter, Randle El again caught a punt and weaved his way through the Redskins' special teams, eluding tacklers at almost every turn. It was punter Tom Tupa who knocked him out of bounds, saving a touchdown. The Steelers began their drive at the Redskins' 39-yard line.

Roethlisberger completed a 20-yard pass to Bettis, giving the Steelers a 1st-and-goal at the Redskins' 4-yard line. Bettis did the rest, lumbering into the left corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.

Midway through the second quarter, Reed added a 36-yard field goal to put the Steelers ahead 13-0 heading into halftime.

It was a lead the Redskins would not be able to overcome.

For the second week in a row, Washington was able to stay close with one of the NFL's elite teams on the road for three quarters. The Redskins lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 28-6 a week ago, but it was a close game until the Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter.

"I think you can say we were very competitive and we fought hard [in both games]," Gibbs said. "The games were close into the fourth quarter. So you look at it and say our football team has continued to fight against tough odds. That's the way I look at it. That's what I would take from it. I'm proud of our guys and the way they fight. They fight hard."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Redskins Motor Past Lions, 17-10

from the offical site of the Washington Redskins

It's no secret the Redskins have struggled to score touchdowns this season. On Sunday in Detroit, coaches used the unconventional to put points on the scoreboard--and it resulted in a 17-10 win over the Lions at Ford Field.

Both of the Redskins' touchdowns came in the third quarter. One was a halfback option pass from Clinton Portis to Laveranues Coles; the other came following a blocked punt.

The win closed out the first half of the regular season for the Redskins and put Washington's record at 3-5.

"I'm proud of our guys," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "We have a bunch of players who fight hard every week. Every game we've played has been a close game and this one was no different. It was an extremely hard-fought game."

The Redskins' defense posted another stellar performance, limiting the Detroit ground attack to just 64 yards. Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington threw for 269 yards, but most of them came in the fourth quarter as the Lions mounted a fourth-quarter comeback. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin had two sacks and Fred Smoot recorded a fourth-quarter interception to help thwart the comeback.

The Lions scored a touchdown on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Harrington to fullback Cory Schlesinger to close to within 17-10 with 2:11 left in the game. Harrington had one final opportunity, but time ran out after a last-second Hail Mary pass was caught in bounds.

"I made up my mind when we had the lead that we needed to make sure we didn't beat ourselves," Gibbs said. "We tried to play it fairly cautious. I wanted to make sure our defense had every chance to stop them."

Mark Brunell and the Redskins' passing game struggled--the offense had just 73 yards passing and was 3-of-14 on third down conversions--but Clinton Portis more than picked up the slack. Portis rushed for 147 yards on 34 carries, a 4.3 yards per carry average.

On his first two carries of the second half, Portis logged 42 yards in putting the Redskins in excellent field position for a score.

Gibbs turned to Portis to close out the drive, employing a halfback option play. Portis took the handoff from Brunell and quickly lofted a high-arching pass to Laveranues Coles in the corner of the end zone. Coles, a step ahead of the nearest Lions defender, caught the pass near the right sideline for the 15-yard touchdown and a 10-3 lead.

"We worked on it all week and that was his best throw of the week," Brunell said. "Laveranues made a nice play, chased it down. It was a big play, obviously coming out in the second half like that."

Later in the third quarter, special teams coordinator Danny Smith sent his unit on a punt block. Taylor Jacobs broke through from the left and batted away the kick of punter Nick Harris. The ball tumbled away and Walt Harris quickly scooped it up. He raced untouched into the end zone for another score and a 17-3 advantage.

"We've had a punt block on every week, it's just a matter of when Danny chooses to use it," Gibbs said. "In that play, it kind of looked like they got off a bad snap and that gave us enough time to get back there to block it. We finally got one and it came at a good time for us."

The first half was filled with solid defensive play, as both teams went into halftime tied at 3-3. Each offense was hamstrung by poor field position and the defenses were able to contain playmakers for both teams.

The Lions started three first-half drives at their own 14-, 13- and 1-yard lines while the Redskins started drives on their 26-, 8- and 3-yard lines.

Neither offense was able to establish any momentum until midway through the second quarter. James Thrash returned a punt 43 yards to give the Redskins their first good field position of the half. Brunell completed passes to tight end Brian Kozlowski and running back Ladell Betts, while Portis spearheaded the ground attack. They led the Redskins to the Lions' 1-yard line.

For the second consecutive week, the Redskins had a touchdown taken off the board due to a penalty. On 4th-and-1 from the one, Gibbs elected to go for it. Brunell found tight end Robert Royal in the back of the end zone for an apparent score. But the play was called back due to a false start by right tackle Ray Brown. The Redskins had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Ola Kimrin.

Late in the first half, another Redskins penalty helped the Lions get into field position for a field goal. With less than 20 seconds left in the first half, Harrington completed a 14-yard pass to tight end Stephen Alexander to the Redskins' 35-yard line. Antonio Pierce and Todd Franz lightly pushed Alexander out of bounds, but they were called for an unnecessary roughness penalty.

After the game, Gibbs made a point to say penalties were a concern.

"We've told the guys, if you hit anybody out of bounds, you run the risk of a penalty," Gibbs said. "Our guys know that. We can't be having those penalties."

Even with the mistakes and the 3-5 record, players still have high hopes for a postseason push.

"We just have to take it one game at a time," Smoot said. "If we win the next game, it just brings us one game closer to where we want to be at."