Open & Shutout

First-team Offense Easily Moves Ball, Drives For Field Goals

Defense Dominates Woeful Redskins Unit

August 14, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

In the Ravens' 23-0 win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, their starting offense did nearly everything right - except finish.

Joe Flacco and his supporting cast opened the preseason by breaking runs, converting third downs and moving the ball down the field effortlessly. But both of the starting offense's marathon series ended unceremoniously with field goals.

The effort of the offense left the Ravens pleased yet unsatisfied. Defensively, the Ravens held the Redskins to 196 total yards and forced two turnovers.

"We held the ball and moved it early, but we have to score touchdowns, not field goals," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said.

A deflected pass to wide receiver Derrick Mason in the end zone ended the Ravens' opening 13-play, 67-yard drive. A dropped pass by Marcus Smith inside the Redskins' 10-yard line put a dent in a 14-play, 71-yard possession.

Steve Hauschka, who is competing against Graham Gano in the team's kicking battle, converted from 21 and 37 yards to start the rout.

"As an offense, everything felt really good," Flacco said. "I think this was a pretty good first outing."

The only setbacks were injuries to a couple of backups (wide receiver Smith and third-string quarterback John Beck) and Gano's 28-yard attempt that hit the right upright to end the game (it came off a high snap).

Beck hurt his throwing shoulder in the second half and didn't know the extent of the injury after the game. Smith, who was vying for one of the top four receiver spots, limped off the field in the second quarter after making a special teams tackle. On crutches after the game, he said he could have torn his anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament.

"It looks serious," coach John Harbaugh said of Smith.

On a muggy night at M&T Bank Stadium, Flacco quieted some concerns about his training camp performance by completing nine of 15 passes for 103 yards with no interceptions.

The second-year quarterback spread the ball to six players. He converted three of six third downs, hitting Demetrius Williams (11-yard slant), Kelley Washington (15-yard slant) and Smith (9-yard out).

The Ravens' first series was jump-started by running back Ray Rice's 34-yard catch-and-run. Rice, who got the starting nod over Willis McGahee, made the short reception in the middle of the field and raced to the Washington 15-yard line.

But the Ravens failed to punch it into the end zone despite three tries inside the 5. On third-and-goal, Flacco's pass to Mason was tipped by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

On the second possession, Flacco connected with Washington on passes of 16 and 15 yards. Each one was punctuated with a celebration from Washington, a free agent who signed after a tryout in minicamp.

"We put in so much work that when you get out here in a game and in front of the crowd, it spills out," Washington said. "I'm an emotional player. I like to please the crowd and get the team into it. They like what I do when I get up and show a first down. It's all about the excitement."

After those passes to Washington and a third-down completion to Marcus Smith, McGahee broke a 16-yard run to move the Ravens to the Redskins' 21. But Smith dropped Flacco's perfectly thrown pass, which would have given the Ravens a first down at the 9.

Last season, the Ravens finished around the middle of the NFL in touchdowns scored. They had 42 touchdowns, which was tied for 13th in the league.

The Ravens' starting offense left with a 6-0 lead and 138 yards on two series.

"It's no knock on [the Redskins' defense], but we see the best defense every day in practice," Rice said. "It would be like a slap in the face to our defense if we didn't come out here and move the ball."

The Ravens dealt a serious blow to the Redskins late in the first half.

In Ravens territory, safety Tom Zbikowski forced tight end Fred Davis to fumble. Ten plays after Dwan Edwards recovered the first turnover of the game, backup quarterback Troy Smith hit Justin Harper for a 19-yard touchdown.

Smith was 6-for-10 for 69 yards on that drive, putting the Ravens up 13-0 with five seconds left in the first half.

"The two-minute drive by Troy and the guys was outstanding," Cameron said.

Said Harbaugh: "That's the way to finish a half - get the turnover and then a touchdown. That last drive is a pressure situation, and we practice it all the time."

That forced fumble was just part of a suffocating effort by the Ravens' defense. That forced fumble was just part of a suffocating effort by the Ravens' defense. The Ravens didn't allow Washington inside the 30-yard line and stopping the Redskins on 10 of 11 third downs.

It marked the return of nose tackle Kelly Gregg and strong safety Dawan Landry. Gregg missed all of last season with a knee injury, and Landry was sidelined for the last 14 games with a spinal cord concussion. They combined for three tackles.

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