LANDOVER -- The real verdict about the Baltimore Ravens' revamped offense won't be revealed until NFL games actually count, but a few indicators Thursday night should allow the organization to begin the season by breathing a sigh of relief.
Unlike previous incarnations, the Ravens finally have a quarterback with the ability to improvise and maintain his poise in the pocket.
"You know that next week everything becomes for real, so you want to go into that game with confidence and feeling good about yourself," said McNair, who connected with wide receiver Mark Clayton for a 15-yard touchdown. "We got some things done that we needed to accomplish.
"Our line did an excel
McNair completed 4 of 6 passes for
Unlike a 30-7 loss the previous week to the Minnesota Vikings, the three-time Pro Bowl passer wasn't under a constant barrage of hits. And the first-string offense didn't commit a turnover one week after McNair uncorked an interception that was returned for a touchdown, a miscue ascribed to a blown route by Clayton.
Perhaps most importantly, the Ravens (2-2) regained their intensity one week after being thrashed at the point of attack on both sides of the football against the Vikings.
"I thought everyone, including the veterans who started the game, played at a good tempo," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It was better than last week when we were a little bit flat. I liked our physicality, too.
"The Redskins are a physical bunch and we went toe-to-toe with them. We still had mistakes that irritate the coaches, things we need to get corrected."
Against the Redskins, McNair had the presence of mind and mobility to scramble away from pressure. During his second drive following a three-and-out opening series, he stepped up in the pocket to avoid the pass rush and delivered a well-thrown 35-yard pass to Devard Darling for his second-longest completion of the preseason.
The drive eventually stalled and kicker Matt Stover pushed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right, but the Redskins were penalized for having 12 men on the field.
Then, McNair located a streaking Clayton between the Redskins' defensive backs for a score. McNair demonstrated some zip on his spiral, too.
"It feels good, like there is completion to the preseason and now you're ready for the next step," Clayton said. "I was able to slip up under Carlos Rogers, who is a really good corner, and Steve just threw the ball perfectly. I just made a play on the ball."
That score capped a nine-play, 71-yard drive that lasted 8 minutes and 43 seconds.
It represented a major contrast to last week where the offense stumbled badly enough that the pass-blocking, efficiency and intensity all drew major scrutiny.
Backup quarterback Kyle Boller had his moments, though.
The deposed former starter completed six of nine passes for
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs issued an unsuccessful instant-replay chal
Two plays later, Boller hit rookie wide receiver Demetrius Williams in stride for a 29-yard touchdown pass. Williams caught the football in traffic, running past a clearly off-guard safety Adam Archuleta to burst into the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Ravens' defense flexed some muscle by forcing a three-and-out on the Redskins' opening drive as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs harassed quarterback Mark Brunell and batted down his pass.
The bend-but-don't-break approach was still somewhat in effect as
"I don't like to use clichés, but nobody is perfect," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "I think we know who we are as a defense, but it takes time to
develop it fully. That might really show come Week
In the closing seconds of the first half, linebacker Dan Cody executed a swim
move to record a six-yard sack of Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. Seconds
later, Gary Stills decked
"I definitely liked the intensity we had and the way we were all over the field," Suggs said. "That's something you feed off and take with you into next week."
The Ravens limited the Redskins to
"You always want to end on a good note because next week the bullets are flying live," Scott said. "You have to come out and get your swagger going. You don't want to take this last game lightly because you don't want that to be what's in your memory going into the start of the regular season.
"There were some ups and downs. We made a lot of mistakes, but we know we can correct them. That's the good thing about the preseason."
Kickoff specialist Aaron Elling connected on a 41-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to cap the Ravens' scoring.
Now, the Ravens have to cut 22 players to get down to the league-mandated 53-man roster limit.
Plus, they have to settle on a third wide receiver between Williams, Devard Darling and Clarence Moore. Williams' late touchdown catch was nullified by a debatable holding penalty by tight end Bobby Blizzard.
"Those players are making it very tough for us to decide the spot," Billick said. "That's a good thing. We know which ones will make the team, but deciding who will make the 45-man roster is still up in the air."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times.