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New England at Washington

Redskins lose to Patriots, DT Noble to knee injury

SportsLine.com wire reports

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins' defensive line problems just got a lot worse, leaving Bruce Smith to question the team's offseason moves.

The Redskins lost starting defensive tackle Brandon Noble to a severe knee injury during Saturday night's 20-13 loss to the New England Patriots, leaving two big holes in the middle of the line.

Noble sprained his left knee and separated his patella tendon when a player fell on his leg in the first quarter. He will have an MRI on Sunday, but he's not coming back soon.

"He could be out half the year, maybe more," coach Steve Spurrier said.

The Redskins have struggled to put together a starting defensive line. They opted not to re-sign Daryl Gardener during free agency, and Dan Wilkinson was cut on the second day of training camp after he declined to accept a pay cut.

"We should have kept one of those two defensive tackles, either Gardener or Big Daddy," Smith said. "It's the reason we're in the situation we're in right now.

"The best decision for us is to go out and get Big Daddy or someone comparable, because right now we're just a little short. We've got to stop this run. We've got to stop this run or it's going to be a long year."

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.

"We'll certainly be looking for some help inside," Spurrier said.

The highlight of the game was second-round draft pick Bethel Johnson's 98-yard kickoff return, which came only a few minutes after the New England rookie fumbled another kickoff return three times - that's right, three times.

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.

"We definitely stood our place defensively," defensive end Richard Seymour said. "We put some pressure on the quarterback - and quarterbacks don't like that."

Then again, it wasn't hard to play well against the mistake-prone Redskins offense. 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.

"I contribute that to lousy coaching, or not very smart players - probably a combination of all of us not being very smart," Spurrier said. "Coaches and players, we have to accept responsibility. We're not a well-oiled running machine by any means."

The Patriots had one noteworthy injury. Starting center Damien Woody got kicked in the leg in the first half and did not return.

Redskins backup defensive end Bernard Jackson sprained his ankle and will miss about two weeks. Tackle Chris Samuels left the game early with heat-related symptoms.

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.

Spurrier declined to declare a winner immediately after the game.

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.

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.

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.

New England needed only three plays to score, with David Patten easily beating David Terrell down the right sideline for an 85-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady.

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.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
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Scoring Summary
TDAntowain Smith, 5 Yd run (Adam Vinatieri kick Failed), 11:31. Drive: 6 plays, 40 yards in 2:50.
TDDavid Patten, 85 Yd pass from Tom Brady (Adam Vinatieri kick is good), 6:43. Drive: 3 plays, 90 yards in 1:17.
TDTrung Candidate 6 Yd run (John Hall kick is good), 4:37. Drive: 7 plays, 68 yards in 2:25.
FGJohn Hall 27 Yd, 3:29. Drive: 16 plays, 72 yards in 8:55.
TDBethel Johnson, 98 Yd kick return (Adam Vinatieri kick is good), 3:16.
FGJohn Hall 47 Yd, 11:44. Drive: 5 plays, 23 yards in 1:35.
New England
T. Brady9/1814510
R. Davey1/6-300
P. Pass746025
A. Smith733113
F. Moreau31709
L. Centers21307
K. Faulk41004
F. McCrary2603
R. Davey2-100-2
D. Patten295185
D. Graham115015
T. Brown21309
D. Givens1909
K. Faulk2806
L. Centers1505
P. Pass1-30-3
P. Ramsey13/2414901
R. Johnson5/107600
G. Hamdan3/72901
K. Watson1062012
T. Canidate533112
R. Cartwright31507
C. Morton51208
S. McCullough4703
S. Cloman1202
R. Gillespie1202
P. Ramsey1000
L. Coles264035
P. Woodcock134034
P. Johnson233024
T. Canidate328013
K. Watson426011
R. Flowers221013
R. Gardner115015
R. Cartwright1909
T. Jacobs1909
S. McCullough1808
S. Cloman1303
Z. Flemister1202
C. Morton1202
Complete Player Stats