Loss to Pats sidelines QB battle


FOXBORO, Mass. -- Call it a draw.

The John Friesz-Heath Shuler quarterback duel won't be decided until after the final preseason game next week.

Neither quarterback had an edge in the Washington Redskins' 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots last night before 45,394 at Foxboro Stadium.

The score was somewhat misleading because the Redskins led 10-3 going into the final period before the Patriots scored 24 points.

The game turned on a pair of fourth-period fumbles by William Bell and Frank Wycheck that the Patriots recovered and quickly turned into touchdowns. The scores were a 15-yard run by Corey Croom and Steve Hawkins' second touchdown catch, a 22-yarder from rookie Jay Walker, a former Howard University star.

Friesz and Shuler were victims of Patriots coach Bill Parcells' ball-control offense that chewed time off the clock. A 17-play, 65-yard drive in the first half lasted 9:10, and a 16-play, 77-yard drive in the second half used 8:41.

The Patriots had a 77-41 edge in plays and a 15-minute edge in time of possession.

The result was that both Friesz and Shuler spent much of the game cooling their heels on the sidelines watching Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe complete 16 of 27 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown.

Friesz, who was supposed to play only the first quarter, played the entire first half and Shuler played a quarter and a half before Gus Frerotte finished up.

When coach Norv Turner was asked if either quarterback gained an advantage, he laughed and said, "I don't know. I was going to ask you guys."

Turner said he thought in May that he'd have a starter by the third preseason game, but added, "The way the thing has come up, we'll wait until after next week."

Shuler's 13-day holdout changed everything because he's had to try to catch up while the team played three preseason games in 11 days.

Frerotte, who's the No. 3 quarterback, produced the only offensive touchdown on a 15-yard pass to Bell in the final quarter. The Redskins' other touchdown came on a second-quarter, 48-yard run by linebacker Ken Harvey, who stripped the ball from Bledsoe.

It was the first touchdown Harvey has scored since he began playing football. Friesz and Shuler each threw eight passes, with Friesz completing six for 53 yards and Shuler hitting on five for 38 yards. Turner said of Shuler, "I thought this was the best he's been and it makes sense it's the best he's been [because he's had more time to practice]."

He also praised Friesz. "I thought John was good. The one interception, it was Ricky Ervins as much as John," Turner said. Ervins ran behind linebacker Willie McGinest, who picked the ball off.

Both Friesz and Shuler said they played better than they did the last game, but Friesz was disappointed he didn't produce any points.

"It doesn't matter what your stats are," Friesz said. "It's how many points you put on the board."

Shuler said of his showing, "There was nothing bad and there was nothing exceptionally great."

Turner said he hasn't decided his quarterback rotation for the last preseason game next Friday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but said he wants both to work with the starting offensive line.

Despite the 0-3 record, Turner was happy with the team's showing.

"Defensively, we did a lot of things better. We got to the ball, we didn't give up big plays."

Washington .0 7 3 7 .17

New England 0 3 0 24 27

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