BALTIMORE -- Don't look now, but the Washington Redskins have an honest to goodness winning streak after Sunday's 16-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Stadium. Some initial thoughts on this 3-2 team that began the season with two losses at home...
Defend the Defense -- After a solid few weeks of questioning what's happening with those trying to tackle, the Redskins quieted the Ravens' attack. Yes, things got hairy late as Breshad Perriman nearly scored a game-winning 23-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left, but couldn't get a second foot down in bounds. Yes, Baltimore ran with success (19-118), but didn't score for the final 45 minutes, were stopped on downs on the final drive and finished just 3 of 15 on third down against a unit that was allowing teams to convert 57 percent after four games. Washington, which ranked 29th entering the game, hasn't allowed a second half touchdown since Week 2. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry worked without linebacker Su'a Cravens and cornerback Bashaud Breeland from the start, and without cornerback Josh Norman (right wrist) for part of the second quarter, but cooked up enough interesting looks to confound Baltimore.
Norman's injury seem to work in Washington's favor, oddly as Baltimore from that point focused on throwing. The Ravens scored a TD on the opening drive for the first time all season, which included a 35-yard run by Terrance West. From the second quarter on, they went from dominating on the ground to struggling in the air. The Redskins also generated pass rush pressure when needed with Trent Murphy leading the way. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco finished 30 of 46 for 210 yards and one touchdown.
Special Plays -- If you weren't sure when was the last time the Redskins took a punt back for a touchdown, now you do. Jamison Crowder returned one 85 yards in the first quarter. as he broke one tackle, but also plenty of room to roam. For the record, the previous punt return TD was by Santana Moss in 2008. Will Blackmon brought a kick back 45 yards in the second quarter. Punter Tress Way boomed a 61-yard kick and twice pinned Baltimore inside the 20.
Cousins Steps Up -- Once again Kirk Cousins was competent (29 of 41 for 260 yards, TD, Int) and confounding in the same game with one stretch highlighting all sides. With the Redskins leading 13-10 midway through the third quarter and starting possession inside their own 5-yard line, Cousins looked and looked and looked toward Jordan Reed. C.J. Mosley noticed as the Ravens linebacker intercepted the pass, but fumbled through the end zone on the return. Given new life, Cousins directed an 11-play, 72 yard drive that ended with a Dustin Hopkins field goal. The QB completed 4 of 5 for 37 yards on the drive and generally played better after halftime. As for his best throw of the day...
Short stuff -- Maybe it was field position. Perhaps the game plan. Regardless, the Redskins faced four 3-and-1 situations in the first half and attempted a pass each time. Only one worked out. The first two were incompletions deep toward tight ends. The final try to Pierre Garcon, coming from Baltimore's 20, missed. As interesting, Washington twice went for the 4th down conversion with Matt Jones runs. One worked, though that drive ended with a punt. The next try, coming with 1:28 left in the half after the Garcon incompletion, did not. Perhaps Washington feared kicking into the wind as they passed on an easy three points down 10-6. Cousins also missed a third down throw to DeSean Jackson late in the game with a chance to seal the win.
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