In a thoroughly dominating performance, the Baltimore Ravens upended their neighbors to the south, beating the Washington Redskins, 23-0.
Though the starting unit failed to put the ball in the end zone, quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense moved the ball consistently against the Redskins’ defense. Flacco finished his night going 9 of 15 for 103 yards.
His longest pass came on a 34-yard completion to Ray Rice out of the backfield. Rice and Willis McGahee both looked strong running the ball, combining for 48 yards on only nine carries.
“I thought they ran hard,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You know they got the ball north and south. It’s good to see the checkdowns [from the quarterbacks].”
Despite moving the ball deep inside Washington territory twice, the Ravens had to settle for two Steve Hauschka field goals.
“The three penalties in the first half hurt us,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “We can correct those. We held the ball and moved the ball early, but we have to score touchdowns, not field goals. Ball security was good, and we’ve worked hard on that.”
The Ravens finally found the end zone at the end of the first half when backup quarterback Troy Smith hit a wide-open Justin Harper for a 19-yard touchdown. Harper had dropped two passes before redeeming himself on the scoring play.
“I thought that was pretty tough coverage,” Smith said. “It was a key catch he made. Harper can catch anything that he puts his mind to.”
The Ravens finished the night with 500 total yards, including 399 in the air. Smith finished with 200 passing yards while John Beck added 105.
The defense—regardless of whether it was the first-, second-, or third-string unit—dominated the Washington offense throughout the night, holding the Redskins to only 11 first downs and 196 yards of total offense while forcing two turnovers. It was a stellar debut for new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was presented the game ball by Ray Lewis at the end of the game.
Jameel McClain led the team in tackles with six while Tavares Gooden added five stops.
“I don’t think we’ve skipped a beat,” defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said. “The goal is to always get off the field as fast as possible. It makes things that much better when you see your offense drive the ball and get first downs.”
The black mark on an otherwise satisfying performance was the number of penalties committed throughout the night. The Ravens had nine penalties, costing themselves 70 yards in the process. Harbaugh voiced his displeasure with the miscues after the game.
“We have to find a way to work it out,” Harbaugh said. “All types of penalties. And that’s probably the most disappointing thing.”
First-round pick Michael Oher had a stellar debut at right tackle, despite sustaining a gash on his forehead early in the game. After receiving two stitches he returned to the field and even took some reps with the second offense.
“He’s ready to play,” Rice said. “He’s physical. He got out there and got a jump on people. He just needs to continue to get better each game.”
In the second half, the defensive dominance continued as Paul Kruger and Tom Zbikowski added sacks and Derrick Martin picked off a Colt Brennan pass in Baltimore territory.
Rookie running back Cedric Peerman added a seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the Ravens up by 23 points.
Despite the positive outcome of the preseason opener, the Ravens took another hit at the wide receiver position, as Marcus Smith went down with a serious knee injury. Harbaugh speculated that the injury involves the ACL. Smith will have further examination on the knee.
Smith was in the mix to compete for the third or fourth receiver spot on the roster, but his season now appears in jeopardy.
In the kicking game, Hauschka gained the upper hand, making field goals from 21 and 37 yards. Graham Gano hit a 39-yarder in the third quarter but missed a 28-yard attempt as time expired.
Harbaugh savored the win but emphasized how much improvement is needed between now and the regular season opener on Sept. 13.
“It was a good start, and obviously we have a whole lot of work to do. Our guys realize that.”
The team will take tomorrow off before returning to Westminster for practice on Saturday morning at 8:45 a.m. The practice is open to the general public.
In addition to Smith going down with a knee injury and Oher sustaining a cut on his forehead, safety Haruki Nakamura suffered a stinger and Beck left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury to his throwing shoulder.