Defense and special teams rescues the offense

LANDOVER - Another ugly offensive display was salvaged by a rescue mission orchestrated by the Baltimore Ravens' resurgent defense and resourceful special teams.

Reeling from a nationally televised debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs and a stressful week with star runner Jamal Lewis' impending two-game suspension because of his plea bargain in a federal drug conspiracy case, the Ravens responded defiantly against the Washington Redskins.

Baltimore (3-2) transformed a 10-0 deficit into a 17-10 victory Sunday night before 90,287 at FedEx Field to win the Battle of the Beltway despite quarterback Kyle Boller's glaring inaccuracy for a season-high three interceptions. Jamal Lewis rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, gaining almost all of his yards in the second half.

Former Redskins cornerback Deion Sanders intercepted a deep pass in his first game in three weeks since straining a hamstring. The 37-year-old nickel back also served as a decoy on rookie B.J. Sams' game-winning punt return for a score.

The Ravens' defense refused to drown along with a stumbling offense and dealt Washington (1-4) its fourth consecutive loss under Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.

First, safety Ed Reed snatched the football away from Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell on a sack. Then, the Pro Bowl defensive back scampered 22 yards for a touchdown to begin a string of 17 unanswered points.

Gibbs challenged, believing that Brunell's arm was going forward, but officials upheld the ruling on the field and penalized Washington a timeout.

Reed also had a hand in setting the stage for the Ravens' next touchdown. He blitzed again on the next series and tackled Clinton Portis for a 2-yard loss on third down.

After Sams caught Tom Tupa's 45-yard punt, he faked a handoff to Sanders, the future Hall of Fame cornerback.

And the undrafted free agent from McNeese State (La.) sprinted unfettered up the Ravens' sideline 78 yards for his second punt return for a score in two weeks.

With the game getting away from them, the Redskins tried to attack Sanders downfield. However, he was up to the task.

Sanders ran step for step with Redskins wideout Laveranues Coles and intercepted Brunell's pass over his shoulder. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection took it out of the end zone for 23 yards, holding the football aloft in the air to celebrate his first interception with Baltimore. It was Sanders' 49th career interception, his first since ending a three-year retirement. Through three quarters, Boller converted 8 of 16 passes for 77 yards, no scores, the three interceptions and a 24.2 passer rating.

With Boller struggling and tight end Todd Heap out until Oct. 24 because of a sprained ankle, the Ravens maintained their lead and controlled the football by handing the ball to Jamal Lewis. In what will be his last game until Nov. 7 against the Cleveland Browns, Lewis rebounded after being bottled up in the first half for 19 yards. Lewis rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries through three quarters.

Boller took a knee to end a horrendous first half. He completed only 8 of 15 passes for 77 yards with three interceptions, no scores and a 28.3 passer rating.

The running game for both teams was ineffectual in the first half.

Jamal Lewis gained only 19 yards on 10 carries, and Redskins running back Clinton Portis rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries. Last week, linebacker Ray Lewis declared that Portis isn't Priest Holmes. Lewis had the hit of the night when he tattooed his helmet on Coles' chest in the first quarter after a dropped pass.

As for Boller, his first interception clearly wasn't his fault.

He hit reserve tight end Daniel Wilcox right in the hands only to have Wilcox drop it as if it was hot. The football caromed to cornerback Fred Smoot, who scooted 17 yards to the Baltimore 29. After defensive end Marques Douglas tackled Ladell Betts for a 1-yard loss, John Hall converted a 3-0 field goal with 5:42 left in the first half.

On the ensuing possession, Boller threw the football behind wide receiver Randy Hymes right to cornerback Shawn Springs in what appeared to be a miscommunication.

Washington didn't capitalize, though, as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs sacked Mark Brunell to complete a three-and-out.

Yet, Boller brought the football back to the Redskins soon enough. When he sailed a pass intended for flanker Kevin Johnson, Todd Franz intercepted and returned it 22 yards to the Baltimore 8.

Two plays later, Brunell rolled out left and connected with rookie tight end Chris Cooley for a 7-yard touchdown to stake Washington to a 10-0 lead heading into the first half.

In a scoreless first quarter, the Ravens managed only one first down as Lewis was limited to no yards on four carries. Baltimore gained only 33 yards of total offense.

The Ravens' defense was nearly as stingy, holding Washington to 41 yards and two first downs.

With the win, Baltimore remains one game behind the first-place Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.

The major question marks: How will they play without Jamal Lewis for two weeks, and can Boller make plays downfield and not turn the football over?

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