The Redskins won their first preseason game of 2005 on Friday night, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 at FedExField. The victory improved the Redskins' preseason record to 1-2.
Beating one of the NFL's top teams from last year--the Steelers were 15-1 in 2004--is sure to give the Redskins a boost heading into the preseason finale at Baltimore next Thursday. Plus, the regular season opener is just over two weeks away.
As Friday's game started, the focal point for the team and its fans was the offense, a unit that had struggled with turnovers in the first two preseason games. In terms of yards gained, it was another strong offensive performance. But the first-team offense was again hindered by a handful of mistakes.
The Redskins totaled 368 offensive yards, including 167 on the ground. The pass protection units did not yield a sack, a testament to an offensive line that has come together this preseason.
Patrick Ramsey entered the game hoping to get into a rhythm early. The fourth-year quarterback played the entire first half against one of the NFL's top defenses from last year.
"I think Patrick played well," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "It looked like his best outing so far this preseason from where I was standing."
Overall, Ramsey was 12-of-19 for 141 yards with one touchdown and one interception, the latter of which was turned into a TD on a 30-yard return by Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu.
Running back Clinton Portis saw his first extensive action of the preseason. He played the first quarter and part of the second before giving way to Ladell Betts. Portis rushed for 48 yards on eight carries.
On defense, linebacker LaVar Arrington saw his first action since returning from a knee injury. He got in on a handful of plays with the first-team defense in the second quarter. Arrington played the entire second half and logged two tackles. He also tipped and nearly intercepted a pass by Steelers' backup quarterback Brian St. Pierre in the fourth quarter.
In the early going, the game featured two of the NFL's top defenses from last year. Both units showed no signs of letting up in 2005.
On the Redskins' first defensive series, the 6-0, 195-pound Carlos Rogers upended the 5-11, 255-pound Jerome Bettis with a tackle, helping to stuff the Steelers' opening drive.
When the Redskins got the ball for the first time on offense, Portis proved that his lack of work this preseason has had no effect on his skills. He ran for 21 yards on three carries on the Redskins' opening possession. The drive stalled when Ramsey under-threw a third-down pass to Santana Moss downfield.
The Steelers scored first on Polamalu's interception return.
Pressured by Steelers' linebacker Clark Haggans coming in on a blitz, Ramsey threw a pass to wide receiver James Thrash in the flat. The pass was slightly over Thrash's head and fell into the arms of Polamalu, who raced into the end zone for an easy TD and a 7-0 Steelers lead.
It was Ramsey's fourth interception of the preseason. Both he and Thrash attributed the pick to miscommunication.
Said Gibbs: "We had a hot [read] there. It was one of those things where we tried to throw a break off and we got caught in it. For me, I felt like it was important to see how Patrick would bounce back from it. I think he bounced back from it. I thought he played well."
On the Redskins next offensive series, Portis ran around the left end for a 9-yard gain. Then Ramsey connected on a sideline pass to Moss, who broke a tackle and made it to the Steelers' 19-yard line for a 40-yard pickup.
David Patten was stopped short of a first down on a third-down reception, so the Redskins had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by John Hall.
Later, after a 24-yard field goal by Steelers' kicker Jeff Reed, the Redskins put together a 10-play, 55-yard scoring drive late in the first half.
Ramsey appeared to get into more of a rhythm in the passing game. He threw passes to Patten and Ladell Betts. Then, on a fourth-and-one deep in Steelers territory, he dove for a key first down.
On the touchdown, Ramsey rolled to his right and found H-back Chris Cooley in the corner of the end zone. Cooley fended off a Steelers defender for a 4-yard score. The game was tied at halftime, 10-10.
Mark Brunell took over in the third quarter and led the second-team offense on an efficient drive, giving the Redskins its 17-10 advantage.
Running back Rock Cartwright, making a strong bid for a roster spot, ran in from 10 yards out to cap a 12-play, 85-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the game clock.
That score was all the Redskins would need. The Steelers' kicker Reed missed a 43-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but otherwise the Redskins defense dominated the second half. Gregg Williams' crew allowed the Steelers only three offensive points in the game.
Brunell was 6-of-7 for 60 yards in a quarter of action. He was replaced by rookie Jason Campbell in the fourth quarter. Campbell struggled, going 0-2 on pass attempts.
The Redskins' first-round draft pick (25th overall) is expected to make the roster. The same could not be said for many of the team's young players and rookies. With rosters due to be pared down to 65 (with roster exemptions for NFL Europe players) by Tuesday, Aug. 30, team officials will be faced with some tough decisions in the coming days.