Late fumble costs Warner, Rams in 20-17 loss to RedskinsPosted: Sunday November 24, 2002 4:47 PM
Updated: Monday November 25, 2002 1:18 AM
LaVar Arrington made the strip, and Daryl Gardener made the recovery at the 13-yard line. The Washington Redskins won 20-17 Sunday, giving head coach Steve Spurrier an improbable victory based on defense, ball control and an error-free game from Danny Wuerffel.
"We would like to have had a little less drama, but we'll take the win any way we can," said Wuerffel, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 235 yards with no interceptions and no sacks.
Stephen Davis scored three touchdowns and ran for 88 yards on 31 carries. The Redskins (5-6), who had an 86-37 pass-run ratio in their two-game losing streak, passed just 24 times and ran 39.
"Now we're in position to go to Dallas with a little bit of momentum," Spurrier said. "Hopefully we'll play a little better than we did today and try to get back into whatever playoff race there is."
The Rams are also 5-6, and now their playoff hopes are just as faint the Redskins'. Both teams said as much in the locker room.
Rams wide receiver Torry Holt: "It's a five-game season. We have to go 5-0 no matter how we win it: 3-zip or 2-zip."
Redskins tackle Chris Samuels: "We have to win out and try to get into the playoffs."
The Rams had won five straight to get from 0-5 to 5-5, and they were down 20-10 in the fourth quarter before Warner put them in a position to tie or win.
The final drive started at the Rams 20 with 3:28 remaining. Using short passes and runs, Warner moved the team downfield until his fumble on first-and-goal at the 6 with 17 seconds remaining.
St. Louis head coach Mike Martz faulted himself for calling the wrong play.
"That's a shame to come back and play like that at the end and not win," Martz said. "I just made a bad call at the end. He had to hold it, got sacked. ... We lost this one on a coaching error at the end."
Warner said he never saw Arrington coming.
"It's one of those where you kind of start to feel him and try to look for somebody," Warner said. "But not to the point where I thought he was coming free and had a clean shot at me."
The play spoiled Warner's return after missing five games with a broken finger. He completed his first 15 passes before hitting a mid-game slump, then recovered to lead a masterful touchdown drive -- going 9-for-10 and hitting Ricky Proehl for a 5-yard TD to make it 20-17 with 6:08 remaining.
Warner finished 34-for-49 for 301 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
"It doesn't matter how I did," Warner said. "We didn't win."
The Rams had won five straight behind Marc Bulger, who was listed as the third quarterback Sunday after he was unable to get a good grip on the ball during pregame warmups.
St. Louis also lost starting left guard Tom Nutten to a broken leg early in the second half.
Wuerffel was making his second start of the season after Spurrier's fourth starting quarterback change. It helped that his receivers were often open against the Rams' linebackers and secondary, especially after play-action fakes to Davis.
"I can see sometimes on those running plays where we were pulling the linebackers up," said Davis, who had scoring runs of 1, 3 and 5 yards. "Early on in the game on draw plays they came running up, and we'd drop it in behind them."
Trailing 10-7 at the half, the Redskins scored on their first two drives of the second half.
The Rams scored on their first two drives of the game to take a 10-0 lead. Warner hit Troy Edwards for a 4-yard scoring pass, Warner's 100th touchdown pass in his 50th career game, and Jeff Wilkins kicked a 30-yard field goal.
The Redskins had three long drives in the first half, but only one of them produced points. A 12-play drive, including nine runs by Davis, was capped by Davis' 1-yard TD run to make it 10-7.
"We can't continue to wait until the fourth quarter to try to play Rams football, and then expect to win," Holt said. "That's what we did here, and as bad as we played, we still had an opportunity to win the game."
Notes: Isaac Bruce caught seven passes to pass Henry Ellard as Rams' all-time leading receiver. Bruce has 599 receptions to Ellard's 593. ... Washington cornerbacks Fred Smoot (bruised lower
back) and Darrell Green (bruised hip) were injured in the fourth quarter. Smoot returned to the game. ... Warner snapped the Redskins' streak of 19 games not allowing a 300-yard passer.