Friday, August 14, 2009

Impressive Shutout Win

The Ravens blanked the Washington Redskins last night, 23-0, in the first preseason game of 2009. It took the team a while to get going, but once they did -- even after the first team came off the field -- they got going.

All 3 QB's (Joe Flacco, Troy Smith and former Dolphins QB, John Beck) each threw for over 100 yards. Smith threw for 200 and a TD.

Flacco started the game and played the entire first quarter and finished the drive into the second, going 9 for 15 for 103 yards. He hit Ray Rice on a screen for a large gain of 34 yards which eventually lead to a Steve Hauschka field goal. Then on the next drive, Flacco connected with Kelley Washington for consecutive 15 and 16 yard gains, which eventually lead to another Hauschka field goal to make the score 6-0.

Most of the second half involved the Ravens and Redskins trading punts, but Troy Smith did hit L.J. Smith (former Eagles TE) for a nice 35 yard gain. The Ravens eventually punted.

Toward the end of the first half, the Redskins put together a nice drive that took almost 6 minutes off the clock. But after a Redskins fumble at the Ravens 35-yard line, the Ravens recovered with 1:12 left. It was the perfect time to execute the hurry-up offense, and the Ravens did. Troy Smith chipped his way down the field with passes of 14, 14 and 13 yards before capping off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown to Justin Harper with 5 seconds left.

Harper had a tough time getting going, having dropped his first 2 or 3 passes, but his touchdown catch was pretty, and his final line of 4 receptions for 57 yards was second only to Jayson Foster, who racked up 79 yards receiving on 3 receptions. Harper has been the guy to watch in training camp, and with Mark Clayton nursing a torn hamstring, Harper could be the one to step up and fill in. And he eventually got around to impressing fans last night.

The running game took second fiddle to the passing attack, with Cam Cameron utilizing the pass to get a better look at his unknown wide-receivers. However, Willis McGahee looked fresh, and busted a highlight-worthy 16 yard run in the second quarter, dodging several tacklers. He only rushed 4 times but ended up with 26 yards. Ray Rice rushed for 22 yards, but his 38 yards receiving (including the big 34 yard catch) proved that he will be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield this season. Cedric Peerman rushed twice for 9 yards and a TD. But undrafted RB Matt Lawrence racked up the most yards on the ground, 36 on 9 carries, all of them coming against the 3rd string defense.

The defense played as well as a defense can play in a shutout. They stifled the Redskins first team offense, pressuring Redskins QB Jason Campbell, and stuffing the run. The Skins were without Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, but it was still nice to see the Ravens defense shut them down completely. Tavares Gooden lead the team with 5 tackles, and looks to be a potential breakout player on the defense in 2008 after Bart Scott followed former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to the Jets. The Ravens also collected 3 sacks on the night.

One of the few roster battles this preseason is between the two kickers, Hauschka and Graham Gano, one of whom will eventually take over the kicking duties following the departure of Matt Stover. Hauschka made 2 field goals, the first 21 yards and the second 37, and Gano kicked a 39 yarder, but missed a 28-yarder late in the game. They each made an extra point. Hauschka has been with the team since last year, filling in as the long-yardage FG kicker and kickoff specialist, but played only one year of D-1 college football. Gano, however, kicked for Florida State and won the Lou Groza award for his 2008 season. He can also punt. The battle between the two kickers, will be the one to watch for the remainder of the preseason.

However, the impressive shutout win was not without injuries. WR Marcus Smith, who the Ravens hoped would step up in his second season after not catching a pass during his 2008 rookie campaign, injured his Achilles tendon and looks to be out for the season. John Beck hurt his throwing shoulder when a Redskins player ran into him and had to leave the game in the 4th quarter. It is unknown what the severity of Beck's injury will be.

Preseason or not, the Ravens looked like they were in mid-season form. They racked up over 500 yards of offense, and it seemed like whoever was on the field, the Ravens could do no wrong. Granted, the Redskins were without some key players, but it was nice to see the Ravens on the good end of a 23-0 game rather than the bad end.

The Ravens take on their former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, now head coach of the New York Jets, next Monday, August 24th.

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