Ravens sloppy as the weather

LANDOVER -- The elements of thunder and lightning eventually subsided after stormy weather soaked the field and sent beer kegs skidding across the parking lot. For the majority of the game, though, the Baltimore Ravens' sloppiness rivaled the weather Saturday night against the Washington Redskins in an abbreviated 13-7 loss at FedEx Field that was finally halted in the third quarter.

Play was suspended with 11:38 remaining in the third quarter as the stadium lights flickered while an incomplete toss from Kyle Boller to Marcus Freeman hung in the air. Shortly after midnight, the game was officially called by NFL officials.

Following a one-hour rain delay because of nearby lightning strikes that prompted stadium officials to evacuate fans into covered concourses, the Ravens' offense kept skidding to a halt due to penalties, shoddy blocking and poor overall execution.

"I am not happy with the start of the game," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We weren't sharp and those procedure penalties put us in the hole. Lightning, rain, wet field, those are no excuses.

"That didn't cause the problems. What we are pleased about is the way we bounced back and how we fought our way through the slow start."

The kickoff was delayed 71 minutes during a torrential downpour accompanied by strong winds and lightning, and the game finally began at 9:11 p.m. When a similar weather pattern hit in the third quarter, the field was evacuated again. Following another lengthy delay, the game was called by NFL officials who cited safety issues for players and fans.

The Ravens trailed 13-7 early in the third quarter after Boller was blindsided on a sack by an unblocked Anthony Trucks with Dallas Sartz returning the fumble for a 3-yard touchdown.

"It was a blitz off the weak side, and you have a certain apparatus that you're supposed to handle that with," Billick said. "When you don't, that happens."

For the second consecutive week, the defending AFC North champions couldn't consistently generate enough rhythm to move the football.

One week after committing 11 penalties in a 13-12 loss to the New York Giants, the Ravens were flagged nine times for 49 yards in the first half alone.

Until a 13-play, 70-yard drive that lasted 6 minutes and 30 seconds that was capped by quarterback Steve McNair's 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Derrick Mason in the second quarter, it was basically a comedy of errors on offense.

"We just have to keep preparing ourselves and remain focused," McNair said. "You have to find a way to get into that rhythm. Those first couple of series, we kind of made some mental mistakes.

"That's expected after a long delay. It was important for us to get our minds back, go out there and focus. We just have to cut down on the mental mistakes. If we do that, we're a good offensive football club."

Three of the Ravens' five starting offensive linemen -- Chris Chester, Jared Gaither and Adam Terry --- jumped offsides. Gaither and Terry actually had consecutive false starts in the first quarter during one aborted drive.

"That's something we've got to learn," Billick said. "We'll go on the same snap count, we'll just go on one every time. In college, we're on 'set, go," all year long, and maybe that's what we need to do."

Earlier, tight end Todd Heap was guilty of the same eager infraction on the next snap after an illegal-formation penalty. With the Ravens facing a 1st-and-20 at their own 21-yard line, McNair called a timeout apparently to calm things down.

In the first quarter alone, the Ravens lost more yards on six penalties (29) than they gained rushing the ball (12).

Former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee rushed for only a dozen yards on four carries. That gives him 35 yards on 14 carries in three games.

Subtract a 16-yard run against the Philadelphia Eagles in the opener, and McGahee has just 19 yards on 13 carries. The Ravens acquired McGahee in a trade from the Buffalo Bills, signing him to a $40 million contract to revitalize the No. 25 running game in the league.

"You have to get into a flow when you're running the ball," Billick said. "We'll look at it and we have to run the ball more consistently.

"We did a couple of things in the second half, but we have to get better. It's tough when you get behind in the pitch count."

McNair bounced his initial pass off the turf. Although he eventually settled down and completed 7 of 9 passes in the first quarter, the offense didn't come close to approaching the explosiveness the team has been hoping to achieve.

Besides the penalties, the Ravens' blocking wasn't up to par. One breakdown happened because tight end Quinn Sypniewski banged into Gaither while trying to begin his pattern, which prevented Gaither from protecting McNair from Redskins defensive end Andre Carter.

McNair completed 14 of 19 passes for 98 yards in the first half with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 102.5 passer rating.

The Ravens produced just 125 yards of total offense on 27 snaps in the first half, finishing with 153 yards on 32 plays.

Their primary highlight was Mason faking out linebacker Rocky McIntosh for the score.

"It was just a matter of me getting the ball to 'Mase,'" McNair said. "I got it to him and he did a great job of getting into the end zone. He came across. I waited until he came clear from the 'Mike' linebacker. After that, my job was easy."

Meanwhile, the Ravens' defense only allowed the Redskins to gain one first down in the first quarter. However, it was a costly one as second-year cornerback David Pittman was immediately exposed as the weak link in his first NFL start.

Despite a lengthy cushion granted by Pittman playing in relief of injured starter Samari Rolle, wide receiver Santana Moss easily scooted past Pittman on the Redskins' first snap for a 40-yard sideline catch down to the Ravens' 27-yard line.

"As time goes on, that play will be an interception instead of just being in the receiver's hip pocket," Pittman said. "As it went on, I became more comfortable and I was more zoned into playing comfortably. I just wanted to let my athletic ability take over."

Although the Ravens allowed just six more yards on the drive, the Redskins were still able to strike first on a 45-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham

Later, the Redskins exploited Pittman again as Todd Collins connected downfield with Antwaan Randle El for 19 yards to get back in scoring position in the final minute of the first half.

"They went after [Pittman] early, but the young man responded," Billick said. "I was very pleased when they went after him early with the big bomb. They challenged him some more, and I thought he came out very well."

On the following play, Collins hit fullback Mike Sellers for five yards and he fumbled with the ball recovered by the Redskins. An instant-replay challenge determined that it was a completion.

The Redskins tried to attack Pittman again in the end zone on 3rd-and-1 from the 8-yard line, but receiver Brandon Lloyd fell down and Collins' pass sailed out of bounds.

Suisham hit his second field goal, a 25-yarder, to close the gap to 7-6 at halftime.

The delays seemed to be a factor in the Ravens' issues, but both teams dealt with the same conditions.

"It makes you start from scratch and messes with your rhythm," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "You feel like you're playing a little from behind. Nobody likes delays."

NOTES: Safety Ed Reed suffered a thigh contusion and Pryce left the game with back spasms. Rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess incurred a concussion and a shoulder injury. Burgess said he briefly blacked out, but quickly regained consciousness. ... Nose guard Kelly Gregg returned to the starting lineup after missing the majority of the preseason with thigh and knee injuries, notching four tackles in the first half. … Linebacker Bart Scott led Baltimore with six tackles in the first half. … Backup running back Mike Anderson gained just nine yards on three carries. … Mason caught five passes for 31 yards. … The Ravens deactivated cornerback Samari Rolle (sprained ankle), running back P.J. Daniels (hamstring), linebacker Antwan Barnes (sprained ankle), offensive tackle Steve Edwards (knee surgery), tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained ankle), wide receiver Mark Clayton (sprained ankle), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (swollen knee) and defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison (undisclosed). … Demetrius Williams started in place of Clayton with Justin Bannan starting in place of Ngata and Pittman starting in place of Rolle. … Chester returned to the starting lineup at right guard after missing last week with a sprained foot. … The Redskins deactivated quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Clinton Portis, offensive guard Pete Kendall, offensive tackle Chris Samuels, offensive guard Todd Wade and linebacker Marcus Washington. … Collins started in place of Campbell with Ladell Betts starting in place of Portis.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens or the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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