The annual “Battle of the Beltway” between the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins took place at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
There were many concerns that I had with the Redskins offseason additions coming into this game; mainly with quarterback Donovan McNabb. I knew the Ravens defense would hold their own against McNabb, but respect had to be given to a guy that led the Eagles to 5 consecutive NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. McNabb has been in the league for a while, so he knows what to do against high-profile defenses. All in all, it was going to be a good matchup. One concernI had with the Ravens was how Flacco would fair against the Redskins secondary of Carlos Rodgers, DeAngelo Hall, LaRon Landry, and Kareem Moore. The Redskins have not been so successful offensively, but defensively they havealways had stellar efficiency. With Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher leading the linebacker corps of the Redskins defense, it previewed to be a good matchup as well.
Defense vs. McNabb
The Redskins started the game with the ball, and McNabb looked comfortable with the transition from the offense of Andy Reid to the offensive scheme of Mike Shanahan. He drove his offense right down the field with the help of a deep pass to Anthony Armstrong, which put them in a 1st-and-goal situation inside the Ravens 10-yard line. But the Ravens defense stepped up with a huge goal line stand and forced a field goal.
Last week in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens defense had a good showing. But against the Redskins, the Ravens were outstanding. Whenever McNabb dropped back to pass, there was at least one man in purple in his face. The pressure on the Pro Bowl quarterback kept him on his heels throughout the 1st half.
Special Teams, Special Teams, Special Teams
The Ravens defense was not the only group that contributed to shutting down the Redskins offense. Punter Sam Koch pinned the Redskins inside the 10 on three separate occasions.
It is an unwritten rule in the NFL that one way for a player to make a team is through special teams. 3rd-year safety Haruki Nakamura caught the snap on a fake punt, and marched 51 yards to the 1 yard line. Nakamura got past H.B. Blades at the line of scrimmage and juked away from a few more Redskins defenders during the most exciting 12 seconds of the game, in my opinion. You have to remember that Head Coach John Harbaugh used to be the Eagles special teams coordinator during his time in Philadelphia, so don’t be surprised with some trick plays.
The kicking duo of Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham came through by going a combined 3-3 in field goals. Any night is a good night when the kicker goes perfect in field goals, and their performance was an improvement from last week.
Bulger, the Back-up
Joe Flacco could not produce any touchdowns or exceptional big plays during his starting series, but backup quarterback Marc Bulger picked up the slack. Just before halftime, Bulger took over for Flacco and was put in a two-minute drill situation. Starting at the 13-yard line, Bulger led the offense down the field as they tore up the Redskins defense. Bulger connected with Donte’ Stallworth on two passes for 25 and 17 yards, respectively. Bulger had the chance to end the 87-yard drive with a touchdown, but wide receiver Justin Harper dropped a sure first down on a pivotal 3rd-and-short play.
Bulger had a great outing going 13-16 for 130 yards, but no touchdowns. If Justin Harper didn’t have a case of “butter fingers”, then Bulger could have had the chance. But that’s football for you: the game of inches. Bulger also had a 95-yard drive in the 2nd half, where he connected with David Reed four times for a total 38 yards. This drive was the straw that broke the camel’s back; well in this case, the Redskins’ back.
Along with Bulger, there were some great performances by other new Ravens.
Cornerback Cary Williams stepped up for the second straight week. This kid’s stock is going up every time he sets foot in between the lines. Williams took advantage of an under-thrown deep pass by McNabb and returned the interception 37 yards to put the Ravens in good field position. I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week, put this kid on the field and he will make plays.
Defensive tackle Terrance Cody did his job in the trenches stopping Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson whenever they attempted to run to his side.
Safety Ken Hamlin made an impressive interception in the fourth quarter, cutting off an out-route and making a diving catch to force a turnover.
Last week, rookie tight-end Ed Dickson gave Baltimore fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of. This week, the other rookie tight-end Dennis Pitta led all Ravens receivers with 4 catches for 65 yards. The 6-4 and 245 lb. rookie from BYU showed how deep the Ravens are at the tight-end position. I like how the backups are putting pressure on veteran Todd Heap. This will hopefully let Heap know that his position is not set in stone. These “young bucs” can play.
The defense kept the streak of not allowing a touchdown for the second straight week. With a dominating 23-3 victory, the Ravens look ahead to face the New York Giants.