Special teams big in Ravens' win

LANDOVER, Md. – Haruki Nakamura took the direct snap with Sam Koch lined up behind him, surprising the Redskins with a trick play. Nakamura bolted upfield on the fake punt, avoiding linebacker H.B. Blades before reversing field and juking Brandon Banks to the ground. The Baltimore Ravens' backup safety nearly scored a touchdown, but was tackled at the Washington Redskins' one-yard .

The Baltimore Ravens' backup safety nearly scored a touchdown, but was tackled at the Washington Redskins' one-yard line by Lorenzo Alexander. It was an effective special-teams gambit, and a necessary one with the first-team offense sputtering and sloppy and the starting defense allowing Redskins star quarterback Donovan McNabb to pick up big chunks of yardage through the air. Between Nakamura's maneuver, a pair of field goals by Billy Cundiff and a sharp cameo appearance by backup quarterback Marc Bulger, the special teams and backups helped the Ravens (2-0) overcome three fumbles in the first half to manufacture a 23-3 victory over the Redskins on Saturday night at FedEx Field.

"The fake was called, I had an option to get out of it, but I saw that the hole was open before the snap," said Nakamura, who ended last season on injured reserve with a broken ankle that required surgery. "Once I got the ball, the linebacker stepped in the hole and I had to bounce it outside.

"I just kept cutting back. On the second cutback, I thought I was going to score. After that, I just hit the wall."

On the ensuing play after Nakamura's jaunt, running back Willis McGahee forced his way into the end zone for the touchdown. The score boosted the Ravens to a 10-3 advantage late in the second quarter.

"Haruki made the plays on the fake punt," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "A guy jumped in the hole, and Haruki made him miss. That was the key. The Redskins had it blocked pretty well, and Haruki did a good job moving the ball."

In his first field goal tries of the preseason as he battles Shayne Graham for the kicking job, Cundiff knocked in field goals from 26 and 42 yards.

However, the first-team offense was definitely out of sync. "I was happy that our punt team set us up and that we were able to score a touchdown," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "But the offense needs to be more consistent and we need to be the ones putting us in scoring position." Meanwhile, Bulger put on a show. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 130 yards and a 105.1 passer rating. The two-time Pro Bowl selection expertly led Ravens on a 14-play, 94-yard drive in the third quarter that lasted eight minutes and 31 seconds. Running back Jalen Parmele capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run to give Baltimore a 20-3 lead.

Signed to a $3.8 million contract in June as an insurance policy behind Flacco, Bulger demonstrated that the Ravens' offense would be in sound hands if anything happens to Flacco. He completed 5 of his first six passes in the second quarter.

On the third-quarter scoring drive, Bulger hit rookie wide receiver David Reed four times for 38 yards.

The Ravens played it extremely safe with Flacco in the first half. He passed 16 times, completing nine for 72 yards and a pedestrian 67.7 passer rating. In the first quarter, Flacco completed only four of seven passes for 25 yards. At least he wasn't sacked after the Ravens allowed six sacks last week against the Carolina Panthers.

His top throw was a 21-yard completion in traffic to three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The Ravens converted only 1 of 10 third downs for the game.

"I think the Redskins did a pretty good job against us in the first half," Flacco said. "We just need to move the ball a little better and convert those third downs. We have to keep the chains moving, and we can't make those mistakes." Another highlight was cornerback Cary Williams, whom the Ravens wish was eligible to play at the start of the regular season. Williams is suspended for the first two games without pay for violating the NFL personal conduct policy

Against the Redskins, he picked off McNabb Williams instinctively jumped in front of a deep McNabb throw intended for Santana Moss for his second interception of the preseason. He returned it 37 yards to the Redskins' 37-yard line.

Only two plays later, wide receiver Donte' Stallworth fumbled it back to the Redskins. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs applied some heat to McNabb in the first half, dominating rookie offensive tackle Trent Williams with his superior speed and technique. The three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher sacked McNabb once.

He also seemed to intimidate Williams, who left the game with his arm in a sling with a right elbow injury. Down 20 pounds from last year and noticeably slimmer after a sluggish season where he recorded a career-low four sacks, Suggs appears to have regained his old form. "I just wanted to get it going," said Suggs, who cut down on junk food to get in shape. "When the ball moved, I moved with explosion. It could be because I'm lighter and had one hell of an offseason: a great workout program and diet. So, yes, that could be it."

Following Suggs' sack, Dawan Landry dropped an interception. McNabb completed just 11 of 26 passes, but did pile up 206 yards. The defense surrendered six completions of 15 yards or higher. The Ravens were vulnerable over the middle in pass defense, allowing tight end Chris Cooley to catch an 18-yard pass. "We didn't get the Redskins off the field on third downs in the first quarter," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We have to get better and we did improve in the second quarter. Also, give some credit to Donovan. He has seen it all, and he did a really good job of buying extra time." Journeyman cornerback Travis Fisher, who got the start, got picked on the most. Fisher and strong safety Dawan Landry were beaten for a 45-yard reception by Anthony Armstrong.

"It was good, but it can be better," Suggs said. "It can be great, but this was only the second preseason game and it's a long way until Monday night [Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets]. We need to keep trucking along and climbing that ladder until we get where we are supposed to be."

Moss caught four passes for 79 yards with Anthony Armstrong catching three passes for 75 yards, including a 45-yard gain. Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice looked rusty as he fumbled twice in the first quarter in his first carries of the preseason. Rice recovered his first fumble and managed to gain three yards.

On his second fumble, Rice picked up a first down when Boldin recovered the loose football. "Our ball security has to be better," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. Rice rushed for 17 yards on three carries. The Ravens used him sparingly last week as a precautionary measure.

"It felt really good," Rice said. "I like to get hit. Getting hit is one of the things that gets me going. I haven't been hit all preseason, so it felt good to actually get tackled. I hope I don't get tackled too much, but it did feel good to get hit."

The Ravens fumbled three times, but only lost one. "We can't fumble the ball that many times," Flacco said. "We need to eliminate those turnovers and take better care of the ball." In the fourth quarter, David Reed dropped a potential touchdown pass from third quarterback Troy Smith.

The Ravens had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Graham, a former Pro Bowl kicker with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Through three quarters, the Redskins had 255 yards and converted just 3 of 10 third downs. The Redskins finished the game with 390 net yards and converted 4 of 13 third downs.

They rushed for only 25 yards on 14 carries, averaging 1.8 yards per carry. "We had a focus on stopping the run, and we did much better than the last game," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "Obviously, we have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. Donovan did a great job of avoiding the sacks and making plays downfield." Notebook: Fabian Washington aces test in first game back from torn ACL

Demetrius Williams sprains ankle By Aaron Wilson LANDOVER, Md. – Fabian Washington didn't hesitate, charging forward as soon as the football headed in the direction of running back Clinton Portis.

The Baltimore Ravens' cornerback was poised deliver a blow, landing on the Washington Redskins runner as he stumbled to the ground after gaining five yards on the reception. What was most impressive was how Washington didn't hold back, reacting quickly to the football in his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament nine months ago. "I felt great, I got to fly around, make a player here or there," Washington said following the Ravens' 23-3 preseason victory over the Redskins at FedEx Field. "I'm happy with it." His hands were about the only thing that displayed rust.

Washington had nothing but green grass in front of him when he broke cleanly on a Donovan McNabb pass near the end zone intended for wide receiver Anthony Armstrong. However, he dropped the potential interception

"Oh my god, that's typical me dropping the interception," Washington said. "That's something I've got to work on. I guess I'll be seeing the Jugs machine come Monday." This was far from a routine experience for Washington. He was a bundle of energy during the beginning of the game, behaving as if it was his first football contest.

"Oh man, I would say about the first three plays I was nervous enough to throw up," Washington said. "I was nervous. My legs started shaking. Once I got that out of the way, it was just football. It was like riding a bike." Washington said he banged up his knee a few times, and it held up.

Consider it a test aced for Washington's surgically-repaired left knee. "He looked crisp, he looked good," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He didn't have any ill-effects that I know of. He kind of looked like the old Fabian."

Cornerback Chris Carr took note of how Washington attacked on a toss sweep with beefy offensive linemen heading toward him. "He had to come up and take on a couple big guys, and he went up there full speed and chopped out their legs," Carr said. "He looked comfortable, and it's good to see him back out there. "You think about it, an ACL, that's a long road. So to see him out there having fun and playing comfortably, it's very good to see. He played well, so that's good for us." WILLIAMS SPRAINS ANKLE: Wide receiver Demetrius Williams sprained his right ankle, but emphasized that the injury is minor.

"I don't think it's serious," Williams said. "I'll definitely be practicing. It's minor. I didn't get no X-rays. I should be back Monday." Williams hurt his ankle during a 12-yard reception in the second quarter.

"Demetrius had a little bit of a turned ankle," Harbaugh said. "So, it doesn't look serious." Afterward, Williams was limping slightly. However, he says he won't be missing any practice time. Not with him in the thick of a competition for a roster spot with David Reed, Marcus Smith and Justin Harper.

"I'll definitely be practicing," Williams said. "I can't afford to miss any practices right now." The Ravens didn't report any other injuries, but tight end Todd Heap was checked out during the game and had something X-rayed. It's believed to be his thumb.

Team officials said he's fine. RESTING CARR: The Ravens decided to go with Travis Fisher rather than expose Carr's hamstring to further damage.

"It was up in the air with the trainers and stuff," Carr said. "When I went in the game last week, the first play I kind of felt it again. It's one of those things where you feel good and you want to play because you're competitive, but it probably wasn't the most prudent decision last week for me to go in there.

"I feel good. Unless something crazy happens, I'll be full-speed playing against the Giants. As soon as we start practicing again, I'll be out there doing every rep. I feel now like I'm 100 percent. They just wanted to be extra cautions because of what happened last week."

RAY RICE LOOKS RUSTY: Pro Bowl running back touched the football for the first time this preseason, dropping the ball twice. He recovered his first fumble and managed to pick up three yards.

Then, Anquan Boldin recovered Rice's second fumble after a first down.

MCCLAIN GETS THE NOD: Jameel McClain started at inside linebacker for the second consecutive game. He nearly scored a touchdown when Redskins running back Larry Johnson bobbled a pass off his hands six times. McClain would have scored on a fumble recovery if Johnson had ever secured possession.

McClain is competing with Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden for the starting Jack inside linebacker job next to All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

ON THE PROWL: Terrell Suggs applied a lot of heat to Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, taking rookie offensive tackle Trent Williams to school. A slimmed-down Suggs has lost 20 pounds after tipping the scales at 283 pounds last season, prompting fellow linebacker Jarret Johnson to joke this week that the former Pro Bowl outside linebacker looked like a guard last year. Suggs dominated the first-round draft pick from Oklahoma with his superior quickness and technique.

Williams left the game with a bruised right elbow. "I just wanted to get it going," Suggs said. "When the ball moved, I moved with explosion. That's pretty much it. It could be because I'm lighter and had one hell of an offseason, a great workout program and diet. So, yes, that could be it."

BIG NIGHT: Jason Phillips had an impressive game as he battles for a roster spot. In the third quarter, he sacked Rex Grossman and forced him to fumble and recovered the football. He recovered another Grossman fumble in the fourth quarter on linebacker Prescott Burgess' second sack of the game.

"It was a lot of fun for me to get back out there and make some plays," said Phillips, a fifth-round draft pick last season who was on injured reserve last year with a knee injury. "I've been waiting for that chance since last year to get out there and make something happen. "Luckily, I was in the right position to do it and fortunately I made the play. It wasn't really too much instincts, it was running around. I got on top of him before he could get rid of it." MOLL GETS THE START: With Jared Gaither and Oniel Cousins sidelined with injuries, Tony Moll got a rare start at right offensive tackle. Moll had missed a significant amount of time earlier in camp with a concussion. "It was really exciting since I wasn't able to play last week," Moll said. "I had a lot of energy to expel. It was a good week to do that. They have a lot of proven rushers. So, it was definitely a good confidence-booster proving to myself that I can still do it." Gaither is out indefinitely with a strained back and back spasms. Cousins suffered a mild concussion this week at practice, but it's not regarded as serious.

The Ravens also deactivated offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (shoulder), guard Daniel Sanders (shoulder), center-guard David Hale (bruised tailbone), safety Marcus Paschal (quadriceps) and cornerback K..J. Gerard (hamstring). The following players remain on the physically unable to perform list: safety Ed Reed (hip), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee).

BIG HIT: Unsuspecting undrafted rookie outside linebacker Albert McClellan got crushed on a crack-back block while covering a punt. McClellan was sent flying through the air. "I didn't see him, I guess that's my welcome to the next level," McClellan said. "It was a good, solid hit."

Was McClellan able to get even with the Redskins after being shaken up? "Not the way I wanted to, I got a good little hit in there toward the end, nothing like the way they got me," he said. "I'm just waiting to get another chance.

"When I get another chance, somebody is going to feel it. The returner set the block up perfect. It was just a good block."

HOMECOMING: Cornerback Doug Dutch, a Washington native who was traded to Baltimore from the Redskins in exchange for John Beck weeks ago, said it felt strange to play against his old team. "It was bittersweet at first to see my old teammates and some of my old friends," he said. "You still got to do your job." Dutch's father was in the stands wearing his University of Michigan jersey. "I bet a couple of my old friends that we were going to win," Dutch said. "I played pretty good."

SMITH UPDATE: Even though third quarterback Troy Smith struggled mightily with his accuracy in practice and was largely ineffective in his first preseason contest, the Ravens aren't displeased necessarily with the former Heisman Trophy winner. At least not outwardly.

"I think Troy has had a really good camp," Harbaugh said prior to the game. "He continues to improve, and Troy is a quality quarterback. We've said it over and over again, and he's done well." Against the Redskins, Smith completed 6 of 8 passes for 62 yards. He also rushed for 19 yards on four carries.

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Marcus Smith has made an impressive recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament last summer than knocked him out for the entire season.

Smith is contending for the fifth wide receiver spot and is also one of the Ravens' top special-teams contributors in kick coverage and as a gunner on punts. He's trying to beat out Demetrius Williams and rookie David Reed. "I think Marcus has taken big strides as a receiver," Harbaugh said. "He grew through his injury as much as any player I've ever seen. He's become a real quality wide receiver. Plus, he brings a lot of special-teams value. Marcus is in a fight also, but he's done very well." QUICK HITS: It's a stiff competition between defensive tackles Kelly Talavou, Lamar Divens and rookie Arthur Jones for one of the final roster spots along the defensive line.

Quiet by nature, Talavou has made some noise with his relentless style on the field. "I think Kelly has had a great camp, I mean really, probably his best camp obviously since he's been here," Harbaugh said. "He's dominated at times. So, we're pretty excited about how he's playing." …

The Redskins started Johnson at running back ahead of Clinton Portis. … Tom Zbikowski started ahead of Ken Hamlin again at free safety for Baltimore in place of Reed. Zbikowski has cemented that he will be the guy while Reed is out indefinitely. Hamlin did intercept a pass against Washington. The Ravens had trouble containing Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, who caught two passes for 33 yards in the first quarter.


Ravens Insider Top Stories