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Best and Worst

Monday, September 15, 2003; Page D14



The Redskins trailed 17-0 but did not wither as they have sometimes done in recent seasons. A pair of momentum-grabbing plays from Bruce Smith and Rod Gardner helped set up touchdowns that trimmed the deficit to 24-14, and the efficient play of Patrick Ramsey led to a touchdown pass to Gardner that tied it at 24 in the third quarter before more big plays helped complete the comeback.


"The sun always shines on the Gators," was one of Steve Spurrier's trademark affirmations when he was coaching at the University of Florida, and that good fortune, at least for the first two games this season, has followed Spurrier from Gainesville. The Redskins yesterday faced the Falcons without an injured Michael Vick one week after winning their opener against the Jets, who were without injured NFL passing champion Chad Pennington.


The Redskins' victory leaves them 2-0 for the first time since 1991. That season the Redskins reeled off 11 consecutive wins on their way to a 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.


Instant replay was supposed to negate officiating blunders, but in order for that to happen, the equipment needs to be in operation. The NFL looked unprofessional when, after a Falcons challenge, an official announced after an extended delay the replay apparatus had malfunctioned and therefore no ruling could be given.


Redskins wide receiver Laveranues Coles has lived up to his hefty free agent contract. After catching 89 passes for 1,264 yards last season with the Jets, Coles has consecutive 100-yard receiving games with his new team, and his presence demands double coverage, leaving defenses vulnerable elsewhere. Coles also showed fortitude yesterday by coming back from a defender's knee to his helmet late in the first quarter and going on to have a career day with 11 catches for 180 yards.


Fox sideline reporter Tony Siragusa wore a beige golf shirt complete with a white, stick-on name plate on his left chest with Fox Sports written in red marker. That prompted Fox veteran play-by-play man Dick Stockton to quip, "I understand in Week 3, you'll be getting a shirt with the Fox logo sewn on."


The Redskins thought they had solved their kicking woes after John Hall's three field goals, including the game-winner, in their 16-13 victory over the Jets in Week 1. But, alas, the curse of the kicking game apparently was not completely exorcised. Hall missed a 51-yard field goal attempt with 1 minutes 58 seconds left in the first quarter when a poor snap resulted in an effort that barely went 20 yards. The field goal unit did redeem itself when Hall made a 54-yarder with room to spare.


Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey got off to a shaky start, completing 3 of 8 passes primarily because he had little time to throw. But the second-year player steadied himself to finish 25 of 39 for a career-high 356 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.


Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie Armstead gave the Redskins their first lead of the game, 26-24, by sacking Johnson for a safety late in the third quarter. Armstead came through a gaping hole on the left side of the line of scrimmage after apparent miscommunication between tailback Warrick Dunn and tackle Todd Weiner.


Trailing by nine points late in the fourth quarter, the Falcons had moved into Redskins territory, where they faced third down and four. Johnson faked a handoff and dropped back to pass, locking in on the middle of the field before throwing it to no one in particular. The ball landed in the hands of safety Matt Bowen, all but wiping out the Falcons' comeback hopes.


While the Redskins were in Atlanta, their home field was in capable hands Saturday night, courtesy of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Springsteen delighted fans with renditions of such classics as "Rosalita," "Pink Cadillac" and "I Walk the Line," a tribute to Johnny Cash. Now if Redskins fans could generate that type of fervor during games . . .

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