The future looks bright in Washington

NASHVILLE--The rookie shuffled out of the locker room, where a mini-entourage awaited. His wife, a friend and his agent's two kids, all waiting to give him a hug. All embracing the unexpected hero.

It didn't even bother Patrick Ramsey that his agent's two young kids both donned Stephen Davis No. 48 jerseys. Ramsey knew why they didn't have his.

''Because [the stores] don't have any,'' Ramsey said.

Look for them in a store near you soon. Especially if Ramsey continues to play the way he did here, completing 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, powering the Redskins to a 31-14 win over Tennessee.

Ramsey, who entered for the second series after starter Danny Wuerffel sprained a muscle in his right shoulder on the first drive, helped Washington snap a two-game losing streak. The Redskins improved to 2-2 while Tennessee fell to 1-4. Ramsey earned the start against New Orleans, and beyond.

''He's our guy,'' Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. ''We don't have to write about who's going to play quarterback [here] for a while.''

The trick now, Spurrier said with a chuckle, is to keep Ramsey ''level-headed''. So he told him not to read any newspaper accounts of his big game.

''I have to go calm him down now,'' Spurrier said.

The Redskins also sported a more balanced attack than in the previous two games, helped by playing from ahead. Running back Stephen Davis shook off a first-quarter knee injury and rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries as the Redskins piled up 156 yards rushing.

Receiver Rod Gardner caught five passes for 81 yards and receiver Kevin Lockett caught four for 58 yards and also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Davis in the fourth quarter.

The defense played better than it had the past two games, albeit against a struggling offense. Still, the Redskins limited Tennessee, playing without its injured top receiver (Derrick Mason) to 289 yards and allowed them to convert only two of 11 third downs. Washington also forced four turnovers.

But Ramsey, who fired touchdown passes of 20 yards and 23 yards to Gardner and Lockett, respectively, was the story. That's not what he expected entering the game, considering he didn't start. But friends and family must have had an inkling. A number of them made the trip from Louisiana to attend the game.

They watched a rookie surprise the Titans and show why he was a first-round pick this past spring. In training camp, Spurrier said Ramsey was unlikely to play this season, partly because he missed the first 16 days in a contract dispute. Of course, injuries to Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, left him no choice but to play.

''I didn't know that he could step up with guys flying around him and make the throws the way he did,'' Spurrier said. ''That was crucial. He avoided the rush here and there, hit a lot of good third down plays. I didn't know he could do that; none of us did. He was lost in the preseason when he played. We knew he looked good in practice, but the games are a different story. He proved to us he could play.''

Yes he did. Ramsey's first drive started on Washington's 21-yard line and the Redskins leading, 3-0. But Ramsey didn't have time to think about his situation--he didn't even know he would be entering the game, thinking Wuerffel was fine.

His first three drives ended the same way: with a punt.

His next four full possessions end the same way, too: with touchdowns.

''Things just clicked out there,'' Ramsey said. ''My teammates did an extraordinary job making plays out there today. They made it easy for me to have a successful day. Shane and Danny were helpful to me from the day I walked into minicamp. They've helped me come a long way. When Danny and I would play golf, he's quizzing me on the protections. Shane is so even-keel that it's easy to talk to him in tense situations.''

After Tennessee took a 7-3 lead on an 11-yard Steve McNair run, Ramsey got hot.

He led a 13-play, 90-yard drive, completing six of 10 passes for 97 yards--because of penalties, the drive actually covered 110 yards. He tossed 15 yards to Chris Doering on one third and 10. Later, on first and 15, Ramsey threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to receiver Gardner, who turned as the ball arrived in the left corner.

Ramsey wasn't finished as he put the Redskins ahead, 17-14, with his first drive in the third quarter. Tennessee had scored with 41 seconds left in the first half when Steve McNair passed eight yards to running back John Simon.

The first drive of the second half featured a mix of play calls. Ramsey completed three of seven passes on this drive, including a key third and eight 12-yard pass to receiver Rod Gardner. He also audibled on an 11-yard pass to tight end Zeron Flemister to the Titans' 6-yard line. Two plays later, operating without a huddle, Davis plowed through from the 1 for a lead that Washington never relinquished.

''He was thrown to the wolves and did a great job,'' Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said. ''[But] everyone sparked everyone [Sunday]. It was a great team effort. It doesn't get any better than what we did. The offense fed off the defense; the defense fed off the offense.''

The feast continued for the rookie, who passed 23 yards to wide-open receiver Kevin Lockett, punctuating the next possession. Lockett's turn to be a throwing hero occured next. On first and 10 from the Titans' 14, Lockett, lined up wide left, stepped back and dropped a lateral from Ramsey. But Lockett picked it up and fired to the right front of the end zone, where a wide-open Davis caught the ball 42 seconds into the fourth quarter.

''After I dropped it, my reaction took over,'' Lockett said. ''I knew it was a lateral pass, so I knew I could pick it up. That's the first time it's been dropped, even in practice. Stephen was wide open when I looked up.''

Almost too wide open.

''The whole time it was coming I said, 'Don't drop this ball,' '' Davis said. ''We've been working on that play for three weeks, but I didn't think I would run it. I didn't know Kevin had dropped it. . . . But it seemed like that pass took forever.''

Ramsey's passes don't take that long, not with his cannon arm. He displayed a toughness in the pocket, absorbing one hit after another. But he hung in and kept delivering passes. Tennessee blitzed him often, trying to rattle him. The Titans also played more man coverage, making it easier, in some ways, for Ramsey to read the defense.

''We let a third string quarterback have his way with us today,'' said Tennessee's Samari Rolle, who played despite a hamstring injury. ''The way we played, it wouldn't have mattered who quarterbacked them.''

But Rolle was wrong: Ramsey is no longer a third-string quarterback. He's the Redskins quarterback of the future. That future just happened to start against the Titans.

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