Pats take pop from Redskins' offense

Matthews named starter after Wuerffel sputters

Pro Football

August 30, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins' first loss in the preseason turned out to be Shane Matthews' gain.

After quarterback Danny Wuerffel sputtered in the first half of a 28-14 loss to the New England Patriots before 70,118 at FedEx Field last night, Washington coach Steve Spurrier announced that he was naming Matthews as the starter for the season home opener against the Arizona Cardinals Sept. 8.

"I really feel that there is less pressure on Shane to go play," said Spurrier, who coached both Matthews and Wuerffel at the University of Florida. "Right now, it looks like Shane is the best player to go with."

Matthews, who played for the Chicago Bears last season, completed eight of nine passes for 104 yards and the Redskins' first touchdown.

"It's going to take both of us if we want to have the year we want to," he said. "It's hard for a team to go an entire season with just one guy. Hopefully, I can play well. I'm going to put everything I've got into winning the opener."

Wuerffel, who was 7-for-13 for 58 yards during the first half, was supportive of his teammate's promotion.

"Shane's a great player," Wuerffel said. "He's done a lot of good things. ... It's a good opportunity for him."

Wuerffel had led the team in completion percentage (63.4) and quarterback rating (117.4) before last night, but his inability to penetrate the New England defense earned him a rating of 65.5 last night.

Wuerffel misfired on six third-down opportunities in the first half, and his offensive line couldn't stop the Patriots from sacking Wuerffel five times for a loss of 29 yards and causing him to fumble the ball four times.

On the other hand, Matthews needed only two series in the third quarter to get Washington on the scoreboard. His 37-yard strike to a streaking Darnerien McCants helped the Redskins break the team record for most points in the preseason with 157. The previous record was 156 set in 1975.

But even Matthews was victimized by the New England defense. After Washington moved inside New England's 20-yard line, Patriots cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock stepped in front of a Matthews pass intended for wide receiver Chris Doering near the left pylon of the end zone to quell the threat.

Patrick Ramsey, who threw an interception earlier in the fourth quarter, made amends by connecting with Doering for a 6-yard touchdown with 2:06 left in the quarter.

In the 15th preseason meeting between these two teams, Washington -- which has a 5-10 mark against the Patriots -- couldn't find the rhythm that helped the Redskins jump out to a 10-0 lead en route to a 40-10 win against the Buccaneers last Saturday.

In fact, New England posted three unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter. Two Damon Huard passes to rookie tight end Daniel Graham and running back Antowain Smith's 1-yard plunge provided the Patriots with a 21-0 advantage at halftime.

Rookie quarterback Rohan Davey hit wide receiver Fred Coleman in stride in the end zone just seven seconds into the fourth quarter for New England.

Washington played without linebacker LaVar Arrington (hamstring injury), defensive end Bruce Smith (personal reasons) and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (back) -- all of whom were declared inactive before the start of the game.

The Redskins failed in their bid to finish 5-0 in the preseason for the first time in franchise history.

The loss preserved the 1985 squad's mark as the only Redskins team to end the preseason with a perfect record. That squad, under former coach Joe Gibbs, went 10-6 in the regular season, but missed the playoffs.

New England 0 21 0 7 -- 28

Washington 0 0 7 7 -- 14

Second quarter NE--A.Smith 1 run (Vinatieri kick), 11:41. NE--Graham 13 pass from Huard (Vinatieri kick), 4:00. NE--Graham 2 pass from Huard (Vinatieri kick), :18.

Third quarter Was--McCants 37 from Matthews (Tuthill kick), 1:46

Fourth quarter NE--Coleman 36 pass from Davey (Vinatieri kick), 14:53 Was--Doering 5 pass from Ramsey (Tuthill kick), 2:06. A--70,118.

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