In Redskins’ 34-31 loss, neither Grossman nor Beck distances himself from the other

August 25, 2011

— If rival quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck proved anything Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, it’s that both have a good deal of resilience.

In the third episode of the “Washington Redskins’ Quarterback Competition,” Grossman — the starter for the final three games of the 2010 season — started slowly, then rebounded with a second-quarter scoring drive.

Beck, meanwhile, roared to a fast start, hit a few speed bumps and potholes, and then directed an impressive scoring drive as he continues to battle for the job.

Tyrod Taylor tossed a touchdown pass to Brandon Jones with 22 seconds left to help the Ravens escape with a 34-31 victory. But the story for the Redskins — who fell to 2-1 in the preseason — was the play of the quarterbacks.

Grossman played four series and completed 8 of 15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, notching a passer rating of 99.9. Beck, meanwhile, played four series as well, and went 6 for 10 for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His passer rating was 90.8.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall accounted for one of the touchdowns, returning an interception 52 yards for a score just 2 minutes 20 seconds after the game began. And running back Tim Hightower continued to impress, scoring on a 37-yard touchdown run.

“I thought we made some strides,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “We had some penalties that held us back at times, but I thought both quarterbacks looked good.”

Grossman, who re-signed with the team during the offseason, started against Baltimore. Beck came off the bench, but both played with the starting offense and against the Ravens’ first-team defense.

Grossman and the offense looked anything but impressive to start the game.

After a three-and-out on the opening possession and a stalled drive on the second offensive series, the ninth-year pro had completed only 2 of 6 passes for 27 yards. After two Beck-led possessions, Grossman returned, only to throw an incompletion on the first play, hand off on the next and absorb a sack on third down to bring on fourth down.

Grossman turned gunslinger in the final series of the first half, however. Starting with an 18-yard strike up the middle of the field to Anthony Armstrong, he connected on his first five passes of the series, marching Washington from its own 20 to the Baltimore 19-yard line. The fifth completion was a 13-yard pass to Santana Moss, and on the next play, Grossman went back to Moss — this time in the end zone. But cornerback Jimmy Smith knocked the ball out of the wide receiver’s hands to prevent the score.

But three plays and one delay-of-game penalty later, Grossman locked in on Moss — the receiver he describes as “a quarterback’s best friend” — and fired a 24-yard pass to him in the right corner of the end zone.

Graham Gano’s successful extra point attempt gave Washington a 21-14 halftime lead.

“It was real important,” Grossman said of the scoring drive. “When you’re in two series and out two and then back in, you want to feel like you’re making some strides. And to get a touchdown drive was pretty important. . . . I feel good about what I’ve done.”

Beck, on the other hand, looked sharp in his initial action, then struggled.

On his first snap, Beck completed a 33-yard pass up the right sideline to Armstrong. He threw an incompletion on the next play — going for heavily covered Fred Davis in the end zone (and missing an open Jabar Gaffney on the other side of the field). But on the very next play, Hightower ripped his big run. He burst through the hole going right, then cut back to his left in the open field and raced 37 yards for a touchdown.

Beck had only one pass attempt on the next first-half series he played, an incompletion to a wide-open Moss. The ball bounced at Moss’s feet in the center of the field.

Beck returned to start the third quarter, directing Washington’s second-team offense against Baltimore’s reserves, and promptly made his first glaring error of the preseason. With his team buried in its own territory, Beck rolled out in his own end zone and fired a pass up the left sideline, hitting Baltimore defensive back Lardarius Webb in stride for an interception.

Then came redemption time for Beck, who marched Washington 97 yards while completing 5 of 6 passes for 75. Beck capped the 12-play scoring drive with a 13-yard screen pass to wide receiver Terrence Austin, who continues his strong play this preseason.

“I felt like I needed that,” Beck said. “After having the interception, you want to get a chance to come back out. To move the ball and get it to a guy like Terrence, who is a shifty guy, and put it in the end zone, I was happy we were able to do that.”

The 31 points were more than the Redskins had in a single game all of last season. Washington’s high came in a 33-30 loss to Dallas in November.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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