LANDOVER — The Ravens used some sleight of hand to overcome their sloppiness in a 23-3 preseason win over the Washington Redskins on Saturday night.
Haruki Nakamura's 51-yard run off a fake punt proved to be the highlight in a mistake-filled effort that, luckily for the Ravens (2-0), came against the more befuddled Redskins (1-1).
The Ravens' first-team offense looked ragged, managing more fumbles (three) than scoring drives (two). Joe Flacco finished 9 of 16 for 72 yards, posting a quarterback rating (67.0) that was nearly half of the one he recorded in the preseason opener (127.1).
Their defense allowed six passes of 15 or more yards in the first half as cornerback Travis Fisher (who was appropriately wearing Frank Walker's No. 41) was beaten deep downfield. It would have been worse if Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb (206 yards passing in one half of work) was more accurate.
The special teams bailed the Ravens out in the second quarter when, instead of punting on fourth-and-six, Nakamura took the direct snap. Nakamura, who broke his ankle nine months ago, eluded linebacker H.B. Blades (who was Flacco's roommate at the University of Pittsburgh) at the line, faked out wide receiver Brandon Banks downfield and then made an impressive cutback at the Redskins' 15-yard line before getting tackled one short of the end zone.
"I had an option to get out of it, but I saw that the hole was open before the snap," Nakamura said. "Once I got the ball, the linebacker stepped in the hole and I had to bounce it outside. I just kept cutting back, and on the second cutback I thought I was going to score. After that, I just hit the wall."
Said special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg: "Haruki made the plays on the fake punt."
Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run put the Ravens ahead, 10-3, with 5:47 left in the second quarter.
"I was happy that our punt team set us up and that we were able to score the touchdown," Flacco said. "But the offense needs to be more consistent, and we need to be the ones putting us in scoring position."
The rest of the first half was far less memorable. It started on the opening drive when Redskins converted third downs of six, 14 and 10 yards.
The biggest play on third down came when wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, a first-year wide receiver out of West Texas A&M, ran past Fisher and safety Dawan Landry for a 45-yard catch on a third-and-10 play. McNabb's high-arcing pass caused Armstrong to slow down and stopped the play from being a touchdown.
Washington settled for a 25-yard field goal from former Ravens kicker Graham Gano to go ahead 3-0.
"We didn't get the Redskins off the field on third downs in the first quarter," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We have to get better and we did improve in the second quarter. Also give some credit to Donovan. He has seen it all, and he did a really good job of buying extra time."
On the Ravens' first series, Flacco made a hard toss to running back Ray Rice, which resulted in the first fumble (Rice recovered it). One play later, left tackle Michael Oher was called for a false start, which negated a 10-yard pass to Derrick Mason on third-and-seven and essentially ended the drive.
The Ravens didn't fare much better on their second drive, when Rice fumbled after being hit by linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
"I think the Redskins did a pretty good job against us in the first half," Flacco said. "We just need to move the ball a little better and convert those third downs. We have to keep those chains moving, and we can't make those mistakes. We need to eliminate those turnovers and take better care of the ball."
It looked like the Ravens were gaining momentum in the second quarter. Flacco's 21-yard pass to Anquan Boldin set up Cundiff's 26-yard field goal that tied the game at 3. Then, Cary Williams intercepted an underthrown McNabb pass and returned it 37 yards.
But two plays after that turnover, the Ravens gave it right back. Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth fumbled after a short catch at the Redskins' 31.
"Our ball security has to be better," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said.
The Ravens then began to pull away from the Redskins. After McGahee's touchdown, backup quarterback Marc Bulger led the Ravens on a 63-yard drive late in the second quarter. Cundiff's 42-yard field goal increased the Ravens' lead to 13-3.
In the third quarter, Bulger put together an even longer series, marching the Ravens 94 yards on 14 plays. That was capped by Jalen Parmele's 3-yard touchdown run, putting the Ravens up 20-3.
"We're making progress and had some good rhythm part of the first half," Cameron said. "We were solid. That second group we had in there did a real good job against a lot of their starters on that final drive in the first half."