Injury to insult
Redskins drop game, lose Noble to knee injuryPosted: Saturday August 16, 2003 11:43 PM
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- Rookie Bethel Johnson fumbled three times -- that's right, three times -- on one kickoff return. He returned the next one 98 yards for a touchdown.
The second-round draft pick from Texas A&M was the typical exhibition game goat-to-hero Saturday night as the New England Patriots beat the Washington Redskins 20-13.
The Redskins suffered a major blow when starting defensive tackle Brandon Noble sprained his left knee in the first quarter.
"It looks like he's going to be out quite a while," coach Steve Spurrier said. "He could be out half the year, maybe more."
The Redskins have struggled to put together a starting defensive line since Dan Wilkinson was cut on the second day of training camp after he declined to accept a pay cut. Jermaine Haley started next to Noble on Saturday, and Peppi Zellner took over when Noble went down. James Cannida was signed last week, and Denver's Lionel Dalton is being shopped for a possible trade.
For those looking for a barometer of the regular season, the Patriots were ahead 13-7 when the starters sat down at halftime. New England's starting defense, except for a couple of long passes to Laveranues Coles, looked in solid form for the second straight week.
Then again, that wasn't hard to do against the mistake-prone Redskins. Dropped passes, an errant shotgun snap by backup center Wilbert Brown, and Patrick Ramsey's under-pressure intercepted pass made the first quarter look like a bad rerun of last week's embarrassing 20-0 loss at Carolina.
The Patriots had one noteworthy injury. Starting center Damien Woody left the game in the first half with an unspecified leg injury and did not return.
Johnson had a 42-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, but he invoked a new level of adventure with the kickoff that started the second half. He fumbled trying to catch the ball, then he dropped it when he started to run -- only to have it bounce back into his hands. He lost it for good when he was hit, and the Patriots had to start at their own 4-yard line after a teammate recovered.
On the next kickoff, however, Johnson made a superb lateral move near the 35-yard line and raced for the score.
At least Washington appeared to have a clear winner in its punting duel, with Bryan Barker outbooting Brent Bartholomew. The Redskins had said they would immediately cut the punter who performed worse, with the winner staying on to compete with David Leaverton for the regular-season job.
Maybe the loser should call the Patriots. The two New England punters battling for the job -- Ken Walter and Daniel Pope -- each kicked a dying line drive in the first half.
The Redskins had a feisty week of practice and hoped to come out with more intensity after the Carolina defeat, but they were down 13-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.
The Patriots scored on their first drive, with Antowain Smith bursting through the Redskins' troubled line for 21 yards on three carries. He walked into the end zone on a 5-yard run, leaving several defenders sprawled on the turf in his wake.
The Redskins drove on the ball well on their next possession, with Ramsey hitting Coles for a 29-yard gain. But, on the next play, Ramsey tried to throw while sandwiched between Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colbin and his pass was intercepted by Eugene Wilson deep in Patriots territory.
A 35-yard pass from Ramsey to Coles in the second quarter set up Washington's first score of the preseason, a 6-yard run by Trung Canidate.
John Hall had field goals of 27 and 47 yards in the second half for Washington.
Ramsey completed 13 of 24 passes for 149 yards. Brady was 9-of-18 for 145 yards.