Maybe the best thing I saw in the Ravens' 34-31 victory over the Redskins on a rainy night in Baltimore was the running and pass-pro blocking of Ricky Williams... but I also liked the continued big-play presence of WR Lee Evans...
Lee Evans beats DeAngelo Hall (#23) on a perfect lead pass of 35 yards from Joe Flacco to score in the first half against the 'Skins...
It wasn't all pretty. I saw rookie CB Jimmy Smith get schooled on red-zone coverage in the NFL... it was not for the faint of heart.
"...a mixed bag of results for a team still seeking a clear identity three games into the preseason...." That's how Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times described it...
The Ravens' 34-31 victory over the Redskins put a bright light on some communication issues in the secondary and the continued growing pains of a patchwork offensive line. The Ravens also displayed resiliency by rebounding from a two-touchdown deficit.
"We're a work in progress," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "I think we took a step in the right direction. On the downside, I think we shot ourselves in the foot too much. Before the preseason is over, that's something we need to get rid of."
In the first quarter, the Ravens fell behind 14-0 as the offense failed to convert a third down and generated only 59 net yards.
"We came back after a slow start," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "We can't have those kinds of starts in the regular season, but we did work to really back."
Flacco left the game in the third quarter, replaced by rookie Tyrod Taylor after completing 17 of 27 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a respectable 97.6 passer rating.
He completed three passes for 60 yards to Evans, the Ravens' new deep threat acquired via a trade from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.
"It's good to see Joe and Lee connect again," Cameron said.
The first half ended with Grossman finding Santana Moss behind rookie first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith for a a 24-yard touchdown pass.
"We didn't flinch when we got down," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We came back on both offense and defense. The last drive of the half was disappointing."
The Ravens began the game in rough fashion as Flacco's play-action fake fooled no one as he stared down wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Hall immediately recognized where Flacco was going, jumping underneath Boldin to position himself for the interception.
"We started off a little slow obviously," Flacco said. "DeAngelo sat all over that route, and you never want to start out like that. It took us a drive to kind of pick it up from there and you don't want to see that. I think we responded pretty well."
Hall didn't stop running until 52 yards later after reaching the end zone.
"We shot ourselves in the foot, and that's why you saw the offense sputter," said Boldin, who led Baltimore with five catches for 73 yards. "When we come out and be ourselves, it's going to be hard to stop us. When we line up in the wrong formation or jump offsides, it's going to be tough for us to recover from that."
On the Redskins' next scoring drive, quarterback Rex Grossman went after cornerback Domonique Foxworth and hit Anthony Armstrong for a 33-yard gain. One year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, Foxworth had trouble matching the wide receivers' speed.
Two plays later, running back Tim Hightower bounced outside for a 37-yard touchdown pass as All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis got blocked out of the play. Strong safety Tom Zbikowki, starting ahead of Bernard Pollard as they compete for the job, was unable to catch up with Hightower.
"We never like to give up yards running the ball, but the bottom line is when you look at that play, there were so many mistakes just on that one play," Lewis said. "I think this is just an opportunity for us to always get better. I really like the way we came out and faced adversity."
The entire defense looked out of position on that play, either overpursuing or failing to get off blocks.
"As a unit, we can do better," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "There wasn't any miscommunication there. It was just more of the defensive line getting cut down. Really, we've got to stay on our feet.
"I've got two guys on me and some of us got cut down. They had that little cutback area. I think we did get better as the game went on. Hopefully, we can get rid of those mistakes."
Former Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice busted into the end zone from three yards out to get the Ravens on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. Rice finished with 72 yards on 13 carries.
In the Ravens' next possession, Flacco found Evans deep. And that score was set up by his 33-yard lob to tight end Ed Dickson, his best play this preseason as he competes with Dennis Pitta.
The Ravens looked confused defensively at the end of the first half as Smith didn't react quickly to a trips package.
The Redskins seemed to be targeting Smith on the play.
"We had some communication issues," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "We can't have that once the regular season comes. We had a chance to make some plays and get off the field and we didn't make them."
In the third quarter, Boldin caught a13-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone from Flacco on a well-timed throw.
The Redskins answered the touchdown with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Austin from former Baltimore quarterback John Beck.
The Ravens capped the game with an acrobatic touchdown run by rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who dove and touched the pylon to give the Ravens the lead for good. The score was set up by undrafted rookie defensive back Talmadge Jackson's interception.
Taylor completed 11 of 18 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
"I think we're still getting better," Evans said. "We're still in training camp mode. We realize this is one of the last opportunities we're going to have to tune up. I think we showed a lot of character early on after we were down, so that part of it was good."
All in all, a lot more positives than negatives in this preseason matchup...but enough negatives to cause just a little concern... unless the Redskins have suddenly become a great team... Although I must admit, John Beck (former Ravens backup at QB) looked pretty darn good out there for the 'Skins...