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WT:For this kid, no sign of growing pains


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For this kid, no sign of growing pains


By Dan Daly

As he sat in front of his locker after yesterday's game, rubbing his tired eyes, Patrick Ramsey looked like he'd just survived another day in the coal mine. All these close games — 16-13, 33-31, 24-21 and now a 20-17 nail nibbler over New England — seem to be taking their toll on the Redskins' kid quarterback. Oh, for a blowout (or, at the very least, a quiet fourth quarter).

Ramsey probably didn't drive away from FedEx Field thinking he'd played one of the better games of his brief NFL career. He completed just 10 of 22 passes for 147 yards, didn't throw for a touchdown, and his second-half numbers were a minuscule 2-for-7 for 12 yards. Sometimes, though, it's not what a quarterback does but what he doesn't do. And what Ramsey didn't do against the Patriots was turn over the ball.

Bill Belichick's byzantine defenses specialize in making quarterbacks, particularly young ones, do things they later regret. The week before, the Patriots had picked off a pass by the Jets' Vinny Testaverde and returned it for a score — the difference between victory and (possible) defeat. But yesterday Ramsey avoided the Killing Mistake that might have been the only way the injury-depleted visitors could have won this game. He didn't force the ball into coverage, didn't get hypnotized by one of Belichick's elaborate schemes, didn't get frustrated by the Redskins' lack of offensive progress in the last 20 minutes. He simply went about his job, a job that involved a lot of handing off, and walked off the field a winner. Again.

That's five out of six starts Ramsey has won, going back to last season. He's doing what a quarterback is supposed to do, but what many, for a multitude of reasons, don't: He's giving his team a chance to win every week — often by putting up impressive stats but occasionally, like yesterday, by not beating himself.

"He's hanging in there, taking care of the ball, not fumbling when he gets hit," Steve Spurrier said. "I've learned that's not an easy thing to do in this league. A lot of these [quarterbacks] are fumbling the ball. Patrick's doing all the little things well."

Yesterday it was the more experienced quarterback, New England's Tom Brady, who turned the ball over and, ultimately, cost his club the game. Twice in the first half Brady underthrew passes in Washington territory that wound up in the hands of Redskins defenders. A third interception, near midfield early in the fourth quarter, deprived the Patriots of another desperately needed scoring chance.

Brady was much more effective in the second half, connecting on 17 of 23 for 198 yards and two TDs, but the Pats never quite caught up. No, as well as the Washington defense played for most of the afternoon, it was the play of the two QBs that separated the two teams. Brady self-destructed; Ramsey didn't.

And the Patriots quarterback knew it. His offense's problems, he said, start "right at the top with me. I have to make good decisions, good throws and give ourselves a chance to win. ... Trying to squeeze balls in somewhere just doesn't work."

More games are lost in the NFL than won. I can't remember who said that, but I'm pretty sure it was somebody famous. Anyway, you'd expect Ramsey, in just his second year, to be going through those kinds of growing pains, learning through his mistakes and so forth. But he appears to have already mastered this lesson — at the tender age of 24. In four games this season against four above-average defenses, he has thrown a grand total of two interceptions. You can go a long way with quarterbacking like that.

The pass that told us the most about Ramsey yesterday was the down-and-out he whipped to Laveranues Coles on third-and-16 in the last two minutes. Though Coles was closely covered on the play — and Patrick was hardly in a rhythm, given all the running the Redskins had been doing — the throw hit Laveranues right in the hands. Granted, it went as an incompletion instead of a first down when officials ruled that Coles failed to maintain possession as he went out of bounds, but it was the kind of under-the-gun play that gives you a good feeling about a QB.

One thing the Redskins need to work on — if they want to see January, that is — is slamming the door when they've got an opponent in distress. The offense went into a shell in the second half yesterday, much as it did in the opener against the Jets and in the latter stages at Atlanta, and once again it nearly backfired. But that probably has less to do with Ramsey than with Spurrier's cautious playcalling. The Ball Coach is still figuring this pro game out (and, truth be known, he's a little shaky in the final minutes of the first half, too.)

But the Redskins are 3-1, heights they haven't known since 1999, their last playoff season. Their young quarterback is keeping his wits about him, their patchwork defensive line is holding up — so far, it's all good.

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