Monday, October 11, 2004

Deion Sanders jogged onto FedEx Field last night for the first time in nearly four years and received more than a smattering of boos from the Washington faithful.

Sanders signed with the Redskins in 2000, quit after one season and then concentrated on resuming his major league baseball career. And there was a stint as a football show analyst and outdoors show host.

He returned to the NFL last month at 37 to play nickel back for the Baltimore Ravens.

The eight-time Pro Bowl pick was beaten on his first snap by Redskins receiver Rod Gardner, who picked up nine yards and a first down. Sanders came back two plays later, knocking the ball away from wideout Taylor Jacobs.

Sanders saved his best performance for the third quarter. Running stride for stride with receiver Laveranues Coles, he intercepted Mark Brunell’s bomb a yard into the end zone and returned it 23 yards.

The interception, the 49th of Sanders’ 13-year career, started the Ravens on a 10-play, 63-yard march that ended with Matt Stover’s 33-yard field goal to give Baltimore a 17-10 lead with 11:49 remaining.

Bowen hurt

Strong safety Matt Bowen suffered a potentially serious knee injury 4:00 into the game. Bowen injured his right knee trying to tackle Baltimore rookie B.J. Sams on Tom Tupa’s first punt.

Bowen, who remained down for several minutes before being helped off the field, was apparently transported to a hospital for a more extensive examination and wasn’t in the locker room after the game. With backup Andre Lott already sidelined with a strained hamstring, rookie Ryan Clark took Bowen’s place with the starting defense.

Bowen has started all 21 games since signing with the Redskins as a restricted free agent from Green Bay before last season.

Picking them off

The Redskins intercepted only one pass in their first four games, a pickoff by linebacker Antonio Pierce in the season-opening victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But last night cornerbacks Fred Smoot, Shawn Springs and backup safety Todd Franz each picked off Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller in a second-quarter barrage that ended a tedious offensive stalemate.

Smoot picked off Boller on the Ravens’ first possession of the quarter, taking the ball 17 yards to the Baltimore 28. Six plays later, John Hall kicked a 26-yard field goal that put the Redskins up 3-0.

Springs’ interception and 12-yard return on the Ravens’ next possession gave the Redskins the ball in Baltimore territory again. This time, however, the Redskins couldn’t capitalize.

Franz picked off Boller on the Ravens’ next possession, setting up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mark Brunell to Chris Cooley that made the score 10-0 with 26 seconds left in the half.

New starters

Kenyatta Jones returned to the starting lineup at right offensive tackle, replacing 41-year-old Ray Brown.

Brown strained a hamstring in last week’s 17-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns and remained hampered during practices last week.

Jones started in the season opener against the Buccaneers, but Brown took his spot the next week against the New York Giants.

Jones briefly left last night’s game with an injured left ankle in the second quarter. He was replaced by Brown but soon returned.

With left defensive end Ron Warner hampered by the ankle he sprained against the Browns, Demetric Evans made the first start of his three-year career. Warner already was filling in for injured Phillip Daniels (groin).

“It’s always great when you get an opportunity,” said Evans, who was out of football last year after being let go after two seasons in Dallas when Bill Parcells replaced Dave Campo as the Cowboys’ coach. “We played well on defense, but there were some plays I could have made that I didn’t.”

Taylor Jacobs made the first start of his two-year career when the Redskins opened in a three-receiver set, leaving H-back Chris Cooley on the bench.

No night owl

Joe Gibbs is well known for his late nights at Redskin Park, but the Hall of Fame coach never has done well in games under the lights. Last night’s loss dropped Gibbs to 16-20 in late games on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.

McAlister gets extension

The Ravens signed Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister to a seven-year contract extension late Saturday afternoon.

By agreeing to the extension, McAlister, who was designated as the team’s franchise player, most likely will remain a Raven for the rest of his career. Terms of McAlister’s contract were not disclosed.

“There’s no doubt that he’s going to be paid as one of the better cornerbacks in the league and as one of the better defensive players in the league,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

McAlister, 27, entered the game ranked fifth on the Ravens this season with 25 tackles. The sixth-year pro out of Arizona is regarded as one the best cover men in the league. He returned his only interception of the season 51 yards for a touchdown in a Week 2 blowout of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Challenged again

For the third time in the past four weeks, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs challenged an official’s call and lost.

This time Washington lost its first timeout of the second half with 8:52 left in the third quarter when Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed blitzed, knocked the ball away from Mark Brunell and raced 22 yards to the end zone to cut the Redskins’ lead to 10-7.

Gibbs had hoped the replay official would rule that Brunell’s arm was coming forward before the ball came out, which would have made it an incomplete pass.

Sams does it again

Ravens rookie B.J. Sams returned a punt for a touchdown for the second straight game. Sams, who took one back 58 yards in last Monday’s loss to Kansas City, returned a punt 78 yards to give Baltimore a 14-10 lead with 6:40 left in the third quarter


There were no surprises among the players the Redskins declared inactive for last night’s game.

Four injured starters — defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin), linebackers LaVar Arrington (knee) and Michael Barrow (knee) and safety Andre Lott (hamstring) — were on the list. Offensive tackle Mark Wilson was made inactive, as he has been throughout his rookie season. Tight end Brian Kozlowski and receiver Darnerien McCants, who were active last week for the first time this season, again were declared inactive.

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