Buoyed by a defense that has become more imposing each week, the gritty running of tailback Stephen Davis and a controversial play selection from Baltimore Coach Brian Billick on the next-to-last play in the first half, the Washington Redskins defeated the Ravens, 10-3, yesterday to remain tied for first place in the NFC East.
The Redskins played the sort of tough and effectively conservative game they had hoped to play, extending their winning streak to four games to the delight of most of the 83,252 fans at FedEx Field.
Kevin Mitchell, No. 55, rejoices with Mark Carrier after first career interception. "I was lucky to be right there," said Mitchell, who received a game ball.
(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
"That was a heck of a fight," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said. "If you like to see defensive football and you like to see guys lay it on the line for four quarters, that's as good a game as you're going to get. There was some hitting going on, some banging, some guys really going after it. . . . It's a heck of a team win. It's nice to put a game like that together where everyone contributes."
Cornerback Darrell Green, who suffered a pulled calf muscle, joined the Redskins' ever-expanding injury list, and his consecutive games streak is in danger of ending at 125.
The Redskins (5-2) remained tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East and continued a recovery program that began on the heels of an embarrassing Sept. 18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that dropped their record to 1-2. Since then, they have found ways to win even with their offense continuing to search for a high-scoring game.
Yesterday, that meant turning new place kicker Kris Heppner's 37-yard field goal in the second quarter and Davis's 33-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter into a victory over the Ravens (5-2), whose three-game winning streak ended. Their day began with Ravens officials fuming when they had to pay $120 to park three buses filled with staff members in the lots outside the stadium and ended with them scratching their heads about an offense that has gone three games without a touchdown.
"How can you go 60 minutes without making one play on offense?" Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe asked. "In my 11 years, I have never seen anything like this. We have to go back to square one and find a way to get the ball in the end zone. . . . Right now offensively, we are not a very good football team, to make a long story short."
This was the Redskins' first win in these clubs' second meeting since the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore five years ago and became the Ravens. The Ravens were a bit too hospitable to their closest NFL neighbors yesterday, as Tony Banks threw a game-turning, end-zone interception in the final 10 seconds of the first half on a highly questionable call by Billick.
After Baltimore place kicker Matt Stover's 51-yard field goal late in the second quarter tied the score, a pass-interference penalty against Redskins safety Matt Stevens in the end zone gave the Ravens a first down at Washington's 1-yard line 10 seconds before halftime. Rookie tailback Jamal Lewis had provided a couple solid runs on the drive. With two timeouts left, the Ravens could have handed the ball to Lewis and would have still been able stop the clock in time to get Stover on the field for a go-ahead field goal.
Instead, the Ravens tried to throw, and Banks forced the ball over the middle toward Sharpe with two Redskins linebackers, Derek Smith and Kevin Mitchell, in close proximity. Mitchell, on the field for the Redskins' goal-line defense, made his first NFL interception.
"I was just happy I was able to make the play," said Mitchell, a seventh-year pro. "The momentum changed."
After one kneel-down by quarterback Brad Johnson, the Redskins were able to go to the locker room at the intermission still tied.
"It's the whole key," Turner said. "If they get a touchdown there, it changes the game dramatically."
Banks faulted himself for making a poor throw, and Billick said Sharpe was Banks's third option on the play.