As game time approached, Ravens Nation filled the purple seats of M&T Bank Stadium with a sea of purple jerseys and festive costumes that affirmed and announced their support for the purple and black. The long awaited preseason game between their beloved Ravens and the Washington Redskins (the “Beltway Brawl”) would soon be underway.
This game, this “dress rehearsal” should answer some nagging questions. Can the Offensive Line hold up against a good team like Washington? Will the Defense get pressure on Robert Griffin III or will he “pick them apart?” Will the Cornerbacks wilt under Washington’s aerial attack or will the reserves “step up?”
Winning the toss, Washington elected to “defer”. The Ravens Offense took the field first. Joe Flacco came out throwing and the drive, as it often did last season, quickly stalled and they were suddenly on Defense.
The Ravens first team Defense dominated the Redskins’ Offensive Line, getting penetration on running plays and routinely disrupting Washington’s passing game. They held Redskins’ runners (Running Backs and RG3) to a little under 3.4 yards per carry. The only significant Redskins gains on the ground were a 23 yards dash by Roy Helu and a 19 yards romp by Alfred Morris.
Although the Redskins gained 142 yards through the air, only 20 of those yards were against the Ravens first team Defense. The Defensive Line overwhelmed Washington and although the Ravens experienced a bit of a drop off when the second team Defense took the field, they still performed well.
Ravens’ Linebackers had a fantastic night. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil terrorized RG3 and the Redskins O-line. Inside Linebackers Daryl Smith and rookie C. J. Mosely were spectacular, playing all over the field, daring the Redskins to venture into their territory. Mosley capped his night by picking off an RG3 pass that was deflected by Daryl Smith. That turnover led to an important field goal.
Head Coach John Harbaugh’s major concern going into this game was Cornerback play. Both starting Corners (Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith) were sidelined because of injury. Slot Corner Asa Jackson was also an injury “scratch.”
Benefiting from the intense pressure being generated by the Ravens’ front seven, starting Corners Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks held up well. Franks did, however, become more vulnerable when the second team took over. Anthony Levine, who normally plays Safety, picked things up by doing an excellent job at Corner.
The first team Offense moved the ball well but played most of the first half without scoring a single point. Suddenly, with one minute fifty-five seconds left in the half, the Offense woke up. Flacco and company drove the ball down field in their “two minutes offense” and finished with a spectacular touchdown pass to a sliding Steve Smith Sr. in the end zone.
With the exception of two lapses by Right Tackle Rick Wagner, the Offensive Line had a great night. They blocked well when the Ravens ran the ball and protected Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor reasonably well. They did, however, fail to convert two “fourth and inches” opportunities.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk shined as a lead blocker, receiver and pass protector. The Special Teams were outstanding, especially on kick and punt coverages and a local product, Wide Receiver Michael Campanaro, whose Mom and Dad watched him perform, had a nice 44 yards kick return to add to his two receptions for 24 yards as a receiver.
The “dress rehearsal” went well for the Ravens. Judging from their performance in this game, it appears the Ravens have dusted off their tried and true “formula for success”; being dominant on defense, running the ball aggressively and finishing strong. The win over the Redskins brings the team’s pre-season record to 3-0 but the most encouraging sign that “the Ravens are back” is their consistency. “They are who we thought they were!”