- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2008


No matter how often the words “battle” and “Beltway” were tossed around this week, the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens are rivals of convenience, not competition.

Sure, Baltimoreans consider every Washingtonian to be a crooked lawyer or lobbyist (and not an honest one at that), while Washingtonians love Baltimore’s gritty, blue-collar funkiness and, of course, the crab cakes while also regarding their neighbors to the north to be intellectually and culturally inferior.

And yes, the attendance of 71,438 was a Baltimore record. But the truth is that the Ravens and Redskins belong to different conferences, they rarely face each other and there is little mutual dislike between the players.

This is all good for the Redskins, who lost 24-10. Imagine how ugly it would have been if the Ravens really hated them.

Q: The Redskins have lost four out of five games now. Are they falling apart?

A: They’re on the brink. They refused to fold against the Ravens after falling behind 17-0. The defense was stout for most of the game but then wilted in the fourth quarter when 260-pound Le’Ron McClain did his best Brandon Jacobs imitation and receiver Derrick Mason made Carlos Rogers look silly on the game-clinching touchdown pass. The offense is the big problem, especially after injuries to the starting tackles. Jon Jansen sprained his left medial collateral ligament, and Chris Samuels suffered a strained right triceps and will have an MRI on Monday. Also, there is a potential problem after Clinton Portis said he was benched against the Ravens. The good news is that next week’s opponent is 1-11-1 Cincinnati.

Q: How can it be that the Ravens went 5-11 last year and are knocking on the postseason door and the Redskins made the playoffs last year but their chances are looking dicey?

A: The NFC seems a bit stronger than the AFC, and it seems the Ravens are responding to new coach John Harbaugh better than they did to their previous coach, Brian Billick. But it goes beyond that. This is a perennially solid organization led by solid football people in key posts who know how to recognize and develop talent. The Ravens have a savvy, experienced general manager and an owner who stays out of the way. Don’t think for a minute that this doesn’t count for something.

Q: Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell has been criticized a lot lately. How did he do?

A: The heat Campbell has been catching from the fans is nothing compared with what he had to take from the Ravens. And that’s the heart of the matter. He made some mistakes, of course, but the Ravens came at Campbell from all angles and were in his face all night. He actually made some pretty good throws, but no quarterback in the world can survive under constant pressure from the defense.

Q: What about Ravens rookie Joe Flacco, who is causing a case of quarterback envy among a lot of Redskins fans?

A: Flacco, who was protected much better than Campbell, completed fewer than half his passes, missing six in a row at one point. He threw a big touchdown pass at the end, but the ball was underthrown. It was complete because Mason beat Rogers badly. The Ravens won mainly because of their defense, running game and some nifty playcalling. That’s why they call it a “supporting” cast.

Q: Instead of punting when they had fourth-and-2 on the Baltimore 43 with the score 14-0 near the end of the first half, should the Redskins have gone for it?

A: Yes (and this is being written at the time, not after the game). By then the Redskins had gotten their offense on track. And the Ravens were bogged down, so field position wasn’t that big of an issue. But mainly they needed to shake things up, do something bold, make a statement. They didn’t.

Q: Shaun Suisham missed another makable field goal attempt. What’s his future with the Redskins?

A: Short term there doesn’t seem to be a quality kicker out there who could replace Suisham for the rest of the season. Long term, if you can kick at an NFL level or know anyone who does, the Redskins would love to hear from you.

Q: So what about the Ravens?

A: Looking pretty good at 9-4, but the big test is next week when Pittsburgh comes to town. The Ravens’ real rival has a one-game lead in the AFC North. The big question is the health of Ravens running backs Willis McGahee and Ray Rice, who were both injured against the Redskins. For a team that depends on the ground game and uses all three of its runners, this might be huge. Also, Flacco did not exactly look great, and the Steelers’ defense is positively nasty.

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