Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Ravens, Redskins spin records before preseason finale
LANDOVER, Md. -- The last time the Washington Redskins were
winless in the preseason, they went on to win the Super Bowl.
One of the Redskins' assistants, Al Saunders, is riding a
nine-game losing streak in exhibition games -- six in Kansas City
and three in Washington -- despite loads of offensive talent at his
disposal in both places.
The Baltimore Ravens? Their offensive coordinator, Jim Fassel,
was head coach of the New York Giants who went to the Super Bowl in
2000 after an 0-4 preseason.
So, does it really matter that the Ravens and Redskins have been
sputtering this August? Is there any real urgency for either team
to show some momentum when they meet Thursday night in the most
meaningless game of the year?
"Honestly, for me, I don't really care what goes on in
preseason," Washington receiver Santana Moss said.
Not all of the coaches and players are that cavalier, but many
Ravens and Redskins seem to have reincarnated themselves as spin
doctors this week to explain their teams' struggles. Washington
(0-3) has been outscored 87-17 over three games, including last
week's 41-0 shutout at New England, while Baltimore (1-2) had a
major letdown performance in a 30-7 loss at Minnesota.
"You never want to get caught up in preseason scores,"
Baltimore middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "To harp on anything
that deals with preseason that means nothing at the end of the day,
you're wasting your time and energy."
Lewis is correct to some degree. Preseason scores and records
are often misleading, and the only true way to evaluate those games
is to check how the starters fared against the other team's
starters while running basic plays with little game-planning.
But the Ravens and Redskins fail that test. Washington's
starting offense, which is trying to learn Saunders' scheme, hasn't
scored a point in 11 drives. Baltimore's starters, led by new
quarterback Steve McNair, scored their only touchdown in the first
drive of the first game.
"Obviously we're not where we want to be, but we've seen what
we're capable of, and we know we can get back to that," Baltimore
tight end Todd Heap said. "I don't really worry about that
Even with that attitude, the Ravens didn't come close to
matching the extreme self-confidence expressed by two Redskins
assistants this week. On Monday, Saunders spoke at great length in
defense of his offense. On Tuesday, Gregg Williams did the same for
his defense. The message was loud and clear: We know what we're
doing, and all will be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against
"I've been in this business a long time," Saunders said, "and
I know (the offense) works at game speed if you've got the right
guys to do it, and if they execute it. So I don't have any qualms
Williams even said the 41-0 loss created a "nice" atmosphere
because it humbled his players and made them more coachable. Like
Saunders, he emphasized he's been running a simplified version of
"We don't think about giving up the 41 points," Williams said.
"But do we have a confidence in the plan? Yes. Have a confidence
in who we're coaching? Yup. Have a confidence of what it's going to
take to get ready to play in the opener? Yup."
The steady voice on each team was the one at the top. Redskins
coach Joe Gibbs said he was concerned about his team's play, and
Ravens coach Brian Billick said he gave his players a
"We can't dismiss or forget about the way we played in
Minnesota," Billick said. "We can't slough it off and say, 'It's
only preseason.' It was a miserable performance across the board.
We should have played at a higher level in the third preseason
Unfortunately for both coaches, the final preseason game isn't
the time to do a lot of fixing. The starters traditionally play
only a portion of the first quarter to minimize the risk of injury.
Fassel, for example, would be happy to see just one good drive from
"I hope it's not three plays and out," Fassel said. "If it's
10, 12 plays, it'll be great. We just want to be sharp and crisp."