Inside The NFL

October 13, 2002

The Third One's a Charm
It was rookie Patrick Ramsey's turn at quarterback in Washington,
and he succeeded where two vets failed

by Josh Elliott

When rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey stuck his head into the
Washington huddle with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter of
Sunday's game at Tennessee, his teammates were shocked and
confused. "No one knew that [Ramsey] was coming in until he
showed up in the huddle," said Redskins tackle Jon Jansen, who
was unaware at the time that starter Danny Wuerffel had hurt his
throwing shoulder on Washington's first drive. "He was being cool
about it, but we were all wide-eyed. I kept thinking, What's
going on here?"

Not to worry. Flashing equal parts talent, savvy and grit, Ramsey
completed 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns in
leading Washington to a decisive 31-14 win over the Titans. One
day after moving into the backup role following the demotion of
Shane Matthews from first- to third-string, Ramsey brought an end
to coach Steve Spurrier's much-maligned attempt to turn two of
his former Florida quarterbacks into NFL starters. "I didn't know
he could play like that," Spurrier said of Ramsey, whom
Washington selected out of Tulane with the final pick in the
first round of last April's draft. "Nobody did. I'll tell you
this: We don't have to worry anymore about who our quarterback
is."

Had Spurrier gotten his way nine weeks ago, that wouldn't be the
case. After Ramsey's contract negotiations broke down this
summer, he was a no-show for the start of training camp. Angered
by the rookie's absence, Spurrier lobbied hard for a trade.
Washington found an interested party in the Bears, but the teams
couldn't agree on compensation. Chicago would have parted with a
second-round choice in 2003, but the Redskins wanted a
first-rounder.

"I called Coach Spurrier the night the trade almost happened and
asked him not to trade me," Ramsey says. "I told him that I
wanted to play for him." The next day he signed a five-year, $5.7
million contract, and Spurrier went to work. The coach began
postpractice tutorials, schooling Ramsey on everything from arm
angles to Spurrier's preferred way of making the turn from
center. Meanwhile, Wuerffel and Ramsey became regular golf
buddies, with the veteran Wuerffel quizzing the rookie between
holes on protection schemes. When most players left town during
the team's bye in Week 4, Ramsey spent the weekend watching film
in Spurrier's office.

Against the Titans he stayed cool under fire and displayed arm
strength far superior to that of Matthews and Wuerffel. After
three ineffective series, Ramsey directed a 13-play, 90-yard
touchdown drive--Washington's longest of the season--that ended
with 11 consecutive passes. The last, a 20-yard strike to wideout
Rod Gardner, put Washington ahead 10-7. After Tennessee scored
for a 14-10 lead at intermission, Ramsey opened the second half
with a 12-play, 74-yard drive capped by Stephen Davis's one-yard
scoring run.

Following the game, after a long embrace with his wife, Virginia,
Ramsey made his way to a waiting team bus, all the while lauding
the work of his linemen and receivers as well as Spurrier's
aggressive play-calling. "I succeeded today," he said, "only
because of this team."

Make that his team.

Miami's New Look
Dolphins Cast in Cowboys' Mold

We're in a time warp, aren't we? We must be stuck in 1992, on a
hot October afternoon in Dallas. Dave Wannstedt is overseeing the
defense. Norv Turner is calling plays from the press box, with
line guru Tony Wise signaling blocking schemes from the sideline.
The quarterback is completing passes at a 63% clip and has
already thrown for two TDs without an interception; the running
back is chewing up yardage (he will end up with 105 yards on 36
carries) behind a massive line, and the fierce tight end is
showing a nose for the end zone. This is Troy Aikman, Emmitt
Smith, Jay Novacek and an Erik Williams-led line, right?

On their best days--and Sunday was one of them--the Dolphins bear a
striking resemblance to those Dallas teams of the early '90s.
Wannstedt, the former Cowboys defensive coordinator, is now the
Miami coach, and Turner and Wise are reprising for the Dolphins
the roles they played in Dallas. Of course, Miami quarterback Jay
Fiedler doesn't compare with Aikman, a future Hall of Famer, but
in their 26-13 conquest of the defending Super Bowl-champion
Patriots, the Dolphins showed that they have upgraded in three
areas: at running back, tight end and the line, essential to the
Dallas formula for success. Last year, without those upgrades,
Miami fell out of the playoffs early after a second-straight
11-win season; with them, Miami leads the AFC East at 4-1 and has
Super Bowl hopes.

The franchise back is Ricky Williams, who's averaging 113 rushing
yards and 24 carries a game. The efficient tight end is rookie
Randy McMichael, who against New England caught his third
touchdown pass of the season. And the depth on the line has been
improved by the addition of reclamation projects Marcus Spriggs
and Jamie Nails, formerly of the Bills.

"People always give so much credit to the running back, but this
offense demands that you have balance," Turner said on Sunday.
He's right. When you think about why Miami's perennially
inconsistent offense has improved so much, you think first of
Williams. But three other imports, at a total 2002 salary-cap
cost of less than $2 million, have been vital.

McMichael, out of Georgia, was a find in the fourth round of the
draft, probably falling that low because some teams considered
the 6'3" 247-pounder too light. "He fit us perfectly--a receiving
tight end who can block," Turner says.

Buffalo gave up on Spriggs and Nails, choosing not to re-sign
either after the 2000 season. Spriggs got his first start at left
tackle on Sunday filling in for the injured Mark Dixon, and the
Dolphins hardly missed a beat. The 330-pound Nails, meanwhile,
has controlled his weight (it's down from about 390) and is
playing a steamrolling left guard. Of Williams's 36 runs on
Sunday, 24 went between center and left tackle.

Throw in the other new face--Turner, the former Redskins coach and
Chargers coordinator whose game plans are famous for including
250 to 300 plays a week--and it's a different world in Miami every
Wednesday, when the offense convenes to go over strategy for the
next game. "With Ricky, Randy, Jamie and Marcus, we're so much
better off on offense than at any time since I've been here,"
says ninth-year center Tim Ruddy. "We go into a game with a lot
more options."

Fast starts are nothing new for the Dolphins. In the last four
years they opened 3-0, 7-1, 5-1 and 6-2 but didn't advance beyond
the divisional round of the playoffs. Can they go further this
year? The temptation is to say yes, but that's been the feeling
every recent October. However, this team is right to be more
optimistic. One number among Sunday's stats was an indication of
why this season will be different. Time of possession: Miami,
39:59.

"It used to be we'd never have any breathing room at halftime,"
said linebacker Zach Thomas. "We're not relying totally on our
defense anymore." --Peter King

Revival in Kansas City
Chiefs Piling Up Yards, Points

St. Louis fans who need a refresher on what a potent offense
looks like can just drive across the state. There they'll find a
Kansas City team that's moving the ball and scoring the way the
Rams used to.

On Sunday the Jets focused on stopping the Chiefs' downfield
passing attack, so K.C. unleashed defending NFL rushing champion
Priest Holmes. He ran for 152 yards and one touchdown, and caught
nine passes for 81 yards, including the game-winning 19-yard
score with 27 seconds left. The 29-25 win improved the Chiefs'
record to 3-2.

Kansas City ranked fifth in the league in total offense in 2001,
but Trent Green's league-high 24 interceptions contributed to a
6-10 record. This year he has cut down on his mistakes,
completing 65% of his attempts while throwing 12 touchdown passes
and six interceptions. He has been at his best in crunch time:
Green's 133.4 passer rating in the fourth quarter is second in
the league.

Green says he forced too many passes into coverage last year, his
first in Kansas City after coming over in a trade with the Rams.
"I'm dumping off the ball more and not trying to make the big
play all the time," he says.

The addition of wideouts Eddie Kennison, picked up last December
after he abruptly retired from the Broncos and was waived, and
Johnnie Morton, a free-agent acquisition who played for the
Lions, has given the offense much-needed speed. The ability of
those two to stretch the field is vital to an offense that relies
heavily on underneath crossing routes. Pro Bowl tight end Tony
Gonzalez has more room to operate over the middle, and Holmes,
who again leads the league in rushing, has more room to run
behind an underrated line. The result? K.C. is averaging a gaudy
34.2 points and 421.8 yards a game. --Jeffri Chadiha

Dispatches
Boo Birds Land On Couch

Not many players work as hard as Browns quarterback Tim Couch or
have taken the battering that he has in three-plus years, so he
was irked and near tears on Sunday after being booed by the
Cleveland crowd as he left the field with a mild concussion
during a 26-21 loss to the Ravens. "I've laid it on the line for
this team and city," said Couch. "To get booed in my home stadium
is a joke. I've worked my ass off, and it's hard to take." ...
When the Falcons agreed to pay free agent Warrick Dunn $4 million
a year last March, they were counting on getting more than 50
total yards a game from the scatback.... The Ricky Williams trade
is paying dividends for his old team as well as for the Dolphins.
Not only is Williams's replacement in New Orleans, Deuce
McAllister, on pace for a 1,475-yard season, but the player the
Saints drafted with the first-round pick they got from Miami,
defensive end Charles Grant, had eight tackles and a sack in a
32-29 win over Pittsburgh.

Read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback every week at
cnnsi.com/football.

COLOR PHOTO: GARY BOGDON Ramsey threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 victory over the Titans. COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO The hard-running Williams can eat up yards and take time off the clock. COLOR PHOTO: RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS Holmes is off and running in a bid to win his second-straight rushing title.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)