Spotlight on Spurrier

Maybe he should have run line plunges in the fourth quarter in Osaka. In just one game, an exhibition, the expectations of the Redskins rose to levels not seen around Washington in years. By scoring 38 points against the San Francisco 49ers, Spurrier has set the new standard; dull just won't do any more, even if the games don't count.

Going in:

Tony Kornheiser in the Washington Post was positively giddy: "If Spurrier's first game is any indication what's to come, we're in for big thunder. Not only did he roll 38 (which is approximately 38 more than Schottenheimer rolled, oh, through October), but he succeeded in driving Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia totally nuts IN A FREAKIN' EXHIBITION GAME!"

In the Times, Rick Snider asked "Can the Fun ‘N' Gun Reload?"" In the article he quotes Spurrier trying to downplay expectations a bit, perhaps realizing the monster he could be creating. "We look forward to going down there and see if we can play two weeks in a row decently," Spurrier said. "I don't know if we can or not. We might sit around and think we're real good right now after that game with the Niners. I hope not. I hope we can play with some intensity."

In his pregame piece , Mark Maske of the Post perhaps exaggerated slightly, but only slightly, in saying "Redskins followers undoubtedly will wonder what went wrong if the team doesn't duplicate last weekend's success."

The national sports media have gotten into raising the bar as well. In a feature article in The Sporting News Paul Attner didn't beat around the bush in saying, "OK, so get ready, NFL. Change is here. Because Spurrier will win big-time in his new league."

And, as I write, the Redskins Network broadcasting the game is showing an intro which has George Michaels intoning the names of George Allen, Joe Gibbs, and then Steve Spurrier.

The Game:

The way things unfolded, it seemed that Spurrier had every intention of living up to his buildup.

You just couldn't figure his play calls out. After an opening run by Stephen Davis for no gain, three consecutive Shane Matthews passes went to running backs, two to fullback Brian Johnson sandwiched around one to Davis. This is something Attner said would rarely happen at all, much less three times is a row.

Facing fourth and one at their own 46, Spurrier's call is to go for it. Davis saves the Ball Coach by making something out of nothing and getting the first down.

Carolina is off balance, wondering what will happen next. Running back Robert Gillespie lined up as a wide receiver and the fade pattern is intended for him. A couple of passes to Rod Gardner set up a field goal. That's not what you want from an 18-play drive, especially not what Spurrier wants. He hates field goals

The Redskins' next drive could have been dead a couple of times but Chris Doering recovered Kevin Lockett's fumble and a few plays later the Panthers had 12 men on the field. Spurrier made Carolina pay for its error on the punt play quickly. Two passes later the Redskins were in the end zone with Matthews going to Lockett on a post pattern for the touchdown.

Midway through the second quarter, Matthews had 116 yards passing. He added about 30 more on the ensuring touchdown drive.

A fake reverse on a run up the middle by Betts was the trick play on the drive. The scary moment came when Chris Samuels sprained his ankle while pass blocking, making one wonder what the starting offensive line was still doing in the game.

From first and goal at the five, there was no "we've got to pound this in" mentality on the part of Spurrier. Matthews had as much time has he needed to find Anthony open in the right side of the end zone.

After a Panther TD, the Skins got aggressive with a minute and a half left. There were no draws or screens to "surprise" the opposing defense, just downfield passes, leading to a Dan Frantz field goal.

It was 20-10 Washington at the half, an aggressive, attacking half of football for the Redskins. Matthews retired to the bench with 195 yards passing to eight different receivers.

During the Redskins' drive with the second-half kickoff, something rarely seen happens; Sage Rosenfels called timeout as the play clock was about to run out. That's not unusual in the NFL, but Rosenfels did not go over to the sideline to confer with Spurrier. This degree of autonomy for an NFL quarterback is extremely scarce. That drive, which consumed the first 5:40 of the second half, ends up in a field goal

The Redskins first punt comes with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Carolina fought back to take a 30-23 lead. Danny Wuerffel led a patient, 80-yard drive to the tying touchdown. The short passes that are not supposed to be a part of a Spurrier offense were key. Actually, the first play was a Wuerffel completion on an intermediate route to Doering, who made a nice one-handed grab. That got things going and a short pass to tight end Robert Royal followed by a nice run got the Redskins within range inside the five.

Anthony was wide open in the end zone for the TD catch on second down. The extra point tied the game at 30 with just under two minutes left.

Defensive end Carl Powell scored the go-ahead touchdown when he grabbed a tipped pass out of the air and sped into the end zone. A Carolina fumble ended their bid to force overtime.

Wuerffel then ran what has to be every coach's favorite play—the kneel down to kill the clock and end the game. Come to think of it, with Spurrier that may not be the case

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. You can find out more about this unique book at RedskinsAtoZ.com


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