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Two special-teams TDs lift Saints past Redskins 43-27

Posted: Sunday October 13, 2002 4:39 PM
  Aaron Brooks Aaron Brooks accounted for each of New Orleans' offensive TDs with three scoring passes. AP

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- The chant in the locker room was "Mike the man! Mike the man!" Boo Williams even did an impersonation of Michael Lewis filming a commercial to capitalize on his newfound fame.

"Shut up, Boo," said Lewis, finally getting a bit embarrassed.

Lewis, the former beer delivery truck driver, had his biggest game since becoming an NFL rookie last year at age 29. He had 356 combined yards -- including kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns -- as the New Orleans Saints beat the Washington Redskins 43-27 on Sunday.

"I never looked at making it this far when I was playing arena ball," said Lewis, who never went to college and has played for teams such as the New Jersey Red Dogs and the Louisiana Bayou Beast. "But the opportunity was there when I came here. And I'm going to take as much as I can from it. It's my turn. I've got to go out there and make a mark for myself."

Lewis might have had Arena League flashbacks in a wacky game that included five touchdowns of 60 yards or more. The Saints (5-1), off to their best start since 1993, scored their most points since 1987. They took a 20-0 lead after rookie Patrick Ramsey, making his first NFL start, threw three interceptions in his first five passes for the Redskins (2-3).

The teams combined for 23 penalties for 177 yards, and how's this for scratch-your-head stats: Washington's first scoring drive covered 75 yards -- 36 yards more than New Orleans' first four scoring drives combined.

"This is one of the weirdest games I've ever been associated with," Redskins 18-year veteran defensive end Bruce Smith said.

Washington head coach Steve Spurrier was exasperated.

"Basically we're not smart enough to give ourselves a chance to win," Spurrier said. "Careless penalties, careless turnovers here and there. We look like we don't care whether we win the game or not. It's pitiful watching us play right now.

"We're trying to make some corrections. We're trying to find out the guys who want to bust their tails and play their assignments. Those who don't, we gotta make changes if we can't get 'em to play and play disciplined. Obviously we looked like a very poorly coached team -- offense, defense, special teams. Until we can get some consistent effort, we're gonna struggle all year."

Spurrier wouldn't elaborate on changes, other than to say that he will stick with Ramsey.

Ramsey, the 14th quarterback to start a game for the Redskins in 10 seasons, saw a better and completely different defense than he faced when he beat Tennessee in relief last week. The Saints sat in a deep zone and had four interceptions, seven sacks, two dropped would-be interceptions and two more interceptions called back by penalties. He finished 21-for-43 for 320 yards.

Jay Bellamy had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the first quarter. Darren Howard had a career-high three sacks.

"Everything that could've gone wrong went wrong," Ramsey said.

Lewis' kickoff return, using sheer speed and good blocking, went for 90 yards in the second quarter. He let the ball bounce on his big punt return in the third quarter, then directed the blocking and tied the franchise record with an 83-yard runback. He also had a 58-yard catch to set up a field goal late in the first half.

All three plays stopped momentum just when it seemed the Redskins would make a game of it.

"They started feeling good," Lewis said. "But when somebody comes right back and scores on you again, you're back down again."

The Redskins also had two long scoring plays. Ifeanyi Ohalete returned an interception 78 yards, and Kenny Watson ran 62 yards after catching a screen pass.

Aaron Brooks completed 12 of 23 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Deuce McAllister had 121 yards rushing on 29 carries.

In the first quarter alone, the Redskins turned the ball over four times deep in their territory and had 1 yard total offense and 57 yards in penalties.

Yet the Saints struggled to make the most of it. They got two touchdowns and two field goals in drives starting at the Washington 5, 9, 15 and 18.

So they needed Lewis' big plays to win the game.

"We've been waiting for that," head coach Jim Haslett said. "He's been close the first five games."

Notes: Tyrone Hughes is the only other Saints player to return two kicks for touchdowns in a game. He ran back two kickoffs against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 23, 1994. ... Wilbert Brown made his first NFL start at left guard for the Redskins because of an injury to David Loverne. ... Injuries: Saints LB Charlie Clemons (groin) and CB Michael Hawthorne (lower leg).

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