In no other area were the Redskins more clearly outplayed than at the quarterback position. While the Eagles' Donovan McNabb completed 68% of his passes for well over seven yards per attempt, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, who replaced Matthews after the starter suffered a bruised shoulder just before halftime failed to keep pace.
Actually, Matthews didn't play horribly. A few of his passes were dropped, all in key situations. The biggest drop came late in the first half when Spurrier decided to go for it on fourth and ten—yes, fourth and ten—at the Eagle 45. Matthews laid it up deep for Rod Gardner, who got his hands on it inside the 10, but he couldn't hold on.
When Wuerffel came in for the second half with the Eagles up 23-7, the game quickly degenerated into garbage time. The quarterback who seemed destined to be the starter right up until a poor performance in the final preseason game was Danny Woeful again. Spurrier quickly lost confidence in him. Wuerffel attempted just nine passes in a half of play; throw in the four sacks that the Eagles tallied and you have 13 passing plays called. Spurrier called 22 for Matthews when the game was still a contest.
"(Wuerffel) did some funny things at times," said Spurrier, although he wasn't smiling when he said it as he had been when he talked about Wuerffel's weak kickoff the previous week.
In fact, the Ballcoach was so perturbed at Wuerffel's play that he hinted that he might lift the "redshirt" status of Patrick Ramsey. The team's first-round draft pick held out for 16 days and Spurrier has often said that the prospects of Ramsey seeing any meaningful playing time in 2002 were remote.
He changed his tune after seeing his #2 in action.
"We may practice Patrick up a little bit, see if he's ready (to play)," said Spurrier to the media after the game. Nobody had asked about Ramsey.
He backed off of his statement a bit later in the press session, perhaps not wanted to completely snuff out Wuerffel's waning confidence and put too much pressure on the very green Ramsey. "He's not ready to play. We're not going to think about that right now.
In addition to the fourth and ten situation near halftime, Spurrier went for it on fourth down early in the second quarter with Washington trailing 14-0. This time there was a yard to go from the Washington 38. Stephen Davis gained 10 yards for the fist, but Matthew threw an interception three plays later to kill any momentum that may have been gained from the conversion.
One would be hard pressed to recall a football game on any level that had a coach going for first downs twice in such situations in the first half of the contest. In the NFL, it's extremely rare for a coach to eschew the punt even once in the first half. It will be interesting to see if the Ballcoach continues to be as aggressive as the season wears on and the stakes get higher.
Although he defended his decision in the second, unsuccessful attempt on fourth down—the Eagles had a short drive to a field goal after that—Spurrier was not pleased with the job he did overall. "We need to play better and coach better, it's as simple as that, he said. "I had a bad night, too."
"When I get my butt kicked, there's no excuses."
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. To find out more about this unique book about the history of the Redskins, go to RedskinsAtoZ
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