- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2006

The theory held by most Washington Redskins that the preseason is meaningless will be tested beginning Sept. 11 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Once again unable to sustain first-half drives on offense and prevent big plays on defense, the Redskins wrapped up a forgettable August last night at FedEx Field, falling to the Baltimore Ravens 17-10.

The Redskins, winless in the preseason for the first time since 1982, were outscored 104-27 in the four defeats. The coaching staff has until 4 p.m. tomorrow to finalize a 53-man roster and then hope the month was merely a mirage and bank on getting a lift with the return of several injured players.

“Certainly, it’s not the way we wanted to play and not the way we wanted to finish up,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “But we know everything points toward [Minnesota] and now we have to find a way to play well. We haven’t done that yet and that’s obviously a concern for all of us.”

The defeat followed a similar script: No touchdowns by the starting offense, an inability by the first-team defense to get off the field and a kicking game that can be best described as shaky — Derrick Frost punted well but John Hall missed a 42-yard field goal.

The Redskins played without injured starters Clinton Portis, Shawn Springs, Phillip Daniels and Cornelius Griffin and key reserves Renaldo Wynn and Demetric Evans. Also rested were Randy Thomas, Chris Samuels, Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.

The only starter to play the entire first half was safety Adam Archuleta.

Quarterback Mark Brunell played two series, completing the preseason 16-of-35 passing for 174 yards. Brunell played 67 preseason snaps and the Redskins gained 233 yards.

Jason Campbell (3-for-7 for 12 yards) played the second quarter and was sacked four times in 12 drop-backs. He did not return in the second half because of a minor hamstring injury. The Redskins allowed 16 preseason sacks.

Gibbs praised the play of quarterback Todd Collins, who led two second-half scoring drives and was 13-for-22 for 201 yards and one touchdown. It is almost certain that Collins will open the season as Brunell’s back up.

“Playing with a bunch of young guys, I thought he was pretty stellar,” Gibbs said. “I pulled him aside and told him he was doing a heckuva job.”

Marcus Washington, Lemar Marshall and Joe Salave’a played only the opening series (a Ravens three-and-out) for the Redskins’ defense.

Baltimore’s second possession — and first scoring drive — was kept alive by two Redskins penalties. With Matt Stover on to attempt a field goal, which he missed wide right, the Redskins were called for 12 men on the field. The Ravens converted on fourth-and-1 on the next snap. Two plays later, Carlos Rogers was called for illegal contact — his second penalty in as many weeks. The drive ended with a 15-yard Steve McNair-to-Mark Clayton touchdown pass.

“I was able to slip under Carlos and Steve just threw the ball perfectly,” Clayton said.

The Ravens took a 14-0 lead into halftime with a rapid 4-play, 81-yard drive. Kyle Boller passed 47 yards to Romby Bryant and three plays later, found tight end Demetrius Williams wide open over the middle — just as Ben Watson ran freely for the Patriots last week — for a 29-yard touchdown pass 1:51 before halftime.

With Collins at quarterback, the Redskins cut the lead to 11 points on their initial second-half possession with a 30-yard John Hall field goal. The big play was a 54-yard pass to Steven Harris.

Later in the third quarter, the Redskins drove 61 yards to the Ravens 24 before a drive stalled and Hall missed wide left on a 42-yard attempt.

Frost fared better on punts. Frost, who saw competitors auditioned throughout the week, averaged 47.2 yards on six attempts.

Baltimore made it 17-3 on a 42-yard Aaron Elling field goal with 5:29 remaining.

The Redskins scored their first touchdown in two weeks on the ensuing possession — a Collins 5-yard pass to Mike Espy in the back of the end zone with 2:57 remaining to make it 17-10. It capped a 10-play, 82-yard drive that included Collins completions of 11, 10 and 12 yards.

The Redskins won’t return to the practice field until Tuesday and won’t begin full-scale preparation for the Vikings until Thursday. That leaves plenty of time to identify and fix the problems.

“We have a lot of straightening out to do and we have to find ways to play much better than we have been if we’re going to beat Minnesota,” Gibbs said. “I’m miserable ? let’s put it that way. I have to live with myself for another few days until we get to play another game.”

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