Frerotte picks up Redskins

September 04, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Buddy Ryan's defense knocked out one quarterback too many yesterday.

After struggling Heath Shuler was sidelined by a jarring Clyde Simmons hit late in the second period, Gus Frerotte came off the bench to throw a pair of touchdown passes and help the Washington Redskins upset the Ryan's Arizona Cardinals, 27-7, in their season opener before 52,731 fans at RFK Stadium.

The Redskins ended a nine-game home losing streak and a 15-game NFC East losing streak while giving the fans a chance to mock Ryan at the end when they sang, "Buddee . . . Buddee . . . Buddee."

Ryan said: "We are a lot better football team than we looked like today. We bordered on pathetic."

That's why it was ironic that even one of the Cardinals few good plays -- Simmons' hit on Shuler -- hurt them.

Knocking out quarterbacks is nothing new for Ryan's defense. When former Cardinal Wilber Marshall gave Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys a concussion last year, the league passed a rule banning helmet hits to the quarterback's head.

There was nothing wrong with Simmons' hit. Simmons grabbed Shuler as he released a pass and buried him in the turf.

Trainer Bubba Tyer said Shuler will miss at least two weeks with a separated shoulder. Trent Green is now the backup, although the Redskins expect to sign another quarterback this week.

Before he went out, Shuler was more effective as a blocker than as a passer. He threw a good block on rookie Michael Westbrook's 58-yard touchdown run on a double reverse that gave the Redskins a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

But Shuler, who wound up completing five of 12 passes for 47 yards and one interception when he threw into double coverage, completed only one pass for four yards on the Redskins' first two scoring drives. Eddie Murray's 36-yard field goal was set up by Leslie Shepherd's 26-yard run on a reverse.

It was a different story when Frerotte came in, even though he didn't take a snap with the first-string offense last week.

As he did during the exhibition season, Frerotte outplayed Shuler. He completed nine of 15 for 157 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown pass to Shepherd and a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Galbraith.

Both were plays Shuler has had trouble making. Shepherd was wide-open when the Cardinals blew the coverage and Frerotte hit him in full stride. Shuler has been wild and has often missed open receivers.

Galbraith was Frerotte's third read on his touchdown catch. Shuler has had trouble finding receivers when his first one is covered.

When coach Norv Turner was near the end of his news conference and was asked what he will do when Shuler returns, he said: "You guys did a heck of a job of waiting this long to ask that question. I'm very impressed. That's obviously an impossible question to answer. But I'm not going to give you ammunition.

"Obviously, there have been situations when someone's got hurt and someone's played so well that you don't make the move back. But we've got two awfully good quarterbacks, so when Heath's ready to play, we'll deal with that," he said.

Frerotte said, "I wish Heath a speedy recovery and everything, but I'm just going to try to do that [try to win the job]."

Shuler thinks he should get the job back when he's healthy.

"Why wouldn't I?" he said.

"I don't think anyone should lose a job to injury. That's sort of an unwritten rule. If Gus goes out and plays and gets the team on a roll, that's obviously Norv's decision. If you lose it, you lose it. That's a coaching decision," he said.

What happens probably depends on how well Frerotte plays. Last year, he won his first start in Indianapolis when Shuler sprained an ankle but was pulled after three losing efforts.

Arizona helped Frerotte by playing so poorly. Quarterback Dave Krieg was intercepted three times, and Larry Centers had an ill-timed halfback pass picked off.

The Redskins rushed for 259 yards as Terry Allen, who got 18 yards in 12 carries against Arizona while he was in Minnesota, gained 131 yards in 26 attempts. Ryan's defense hadn't allowed a rusher to gain 100 yards in 62 games since 1989, when Gerald Riggs of the Redskins did it against Philadelphia when Ryan was there.

The Redskins offensive line also controlled the Cardinals' defense, as young Tre Johnson and veteran John Gesek held Eric Swann to four tackles and no sacks.

"We proved last year that our defense can play with anybody," Ryan said. "We had some bad things happen to us."

Knocking out Shuler was the worst thing.

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