Spotlight on Spurrier

With the Redskins trailing the Steelers 17-0, Steve Spurrier was typically blunt as he talked to announcer Jeff Bostic as the team was leaving the field at halftime. "We looked like crap, we're not playing very well. Tell the crowd don't leave yet, we're going to do better in the second half." Right he was. The deficit grew to 24-0 before the Redskins rallied to win the game.

The second half was nice, but there was the looking like crap thing to deal with. Since that half was played mostly by the two teams' starters, it was the most important.

You name the kind of mistake, the Redskins made it--dropped passes, penalties, fumbles, interceptions. Their offensive output totaled a meager 97 yards.

The Ballcoach showed his displeasure. After Sage Rosenfels threw a pass that was nearly picked off, Spurrier ripped off his headset in anger. Generally, though, his reactions were more subdued, like shaking his head in an expression somewhere in between disbelief and disgust.

Overall, though, there wasn't much for the offensive mind of Spurrier to do in the first half. Washington held the ball for only a shade over 10 minutes. Marvin Lewis was considerably more active, watching as his defense gave up touchdown drives of 83 and 99 yards.

"They could have booed our butts out of the tunnel after the first half," said Spurrier afterwards.

As promised, things got better in the second half, but not before they got worse. Shane Matthews came in and promptly threw an interception deep in Washington territory. Four plays later it was 24-0.

It's been a long time since Spurrier participated in games that didn't count for anything. "I'm trying to learn to coach exhibition. I haven't learned yet. Don't know if you're supposed to try to win or not, but it seems like we get in the battle and we try to win the things."

Some other NFL coaches—perhaps most others—would have stuck with a game plan, work on the rushing game, and try to run the clock out. Spurrier is not most other NFL coaches. He went for the win.

Sometimes, a good break is needed to fuel a comeback and this one started when Derrius Thompson didn't catch a Matthews pass in the end zone. The officials didn't see Thompson juggling the ball and when Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher tried to signal for a replay review, his transmitter failed. Cowher slammed the device to the ground in disgust.

As things started to go the Redskins' way, Spurrier's displays were not quite so animated. He got visibly upset at a personal foul penalty, but immediately recovered and began calling the play into Matthews.

Thompson caught eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He was one of the players that Spurrier was referring to when he said, "Some of those guys [who played in the second half] need to be starters. I think we're all starting to recognize that. Maybe we need to evaluate all our guys right now."

"There's a good chance that Derrius could start this week [at Tampa Bay]," said Spurrier.

Matthews threw for one more touchdown before Rosenfels returned to throw for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to complete the comeback.

"It was one of those games where you don't quit," said Spurrier. "You keep on playing, keep on pitching it around the ballpark. . . . I know it's an exhibition game. But they're keeping score, so we might as well win."

The Numbers

Again, the run-pass ratio was way out of balance, with the Redskins throwing 51 passes and rushing 19 times. It's not as though they ran significantly less in the second half when the score got out of hand. Ten running plays were called in the first half, nine in the second.

For the second straight week, 12 different players caught passes.

Coming up

The papers in Florida are already starting to hype Spurrier's return to the Sunshine State when the Redskins visit the Bucs on Saturday.

Bucs coach John Gruden was asked about the visit in the Orlando Sentinel: "I expect a lot of people to be excited to see him, and they should be," Gruden said. "The guy laid it on the line and got a lot done at Florida. It will be an exciting time for me, but I look forward to competing with anybody. I don't care who's over there."

In the Tampa Tribune, Tampa Bay management looks at the game as a great potential revenue generator. ``It is just a preseason game and I've never seen a hyped- up preseason game,'' Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. ``But I will say this. It is the one time you wish you had the 150,000-seat stadium. Because you might've been able to sell that out.''

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