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Ex-Arena player Lewis runs wild for Saints

10/14/2002

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.

Question on the Saints: Are you surprised with the job Jim Haslett has done so far despite all the new parts?
Yes. Haslett is a defense-oriented coach, so to be able to change the offense's personality and the offensive scheme in one year and have so much success is amazing. The special teams have been impressive too. But I thought the Saints would be much better defensively.

Question on the Redskins: Will Spurrier change his tune after watching Patrick Ramsey throw four picks?
No, I think Spurrier will stick with Ramsey. The coach might need to limit the playbook to ease Ramsey into the starter's role a bit more easily. It seems that the 'Skins have been wavering between the Fun 'n' Gun philosophy and the running game with Stephen Davis. With Ramsey's youth, they should feature Davis more.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"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
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
four 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 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,'' coach Jim Haslett said. "He's
been close the first five games.''

Game 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).