Forget the outcome. A win feels better, a loss hurts, but in reality the result means little at this juncture.
How did the Redskins conduct their business in their second preseason game? How did they match up with the Baltimore Ravens, a team many expect to contend in the AFC for the Super Bowl?
What did we see in this 23-3 defeat at FedExField?
We saw good. We saw bad. We saw ugly. Not, however, in equal proportions. Clint Eastwood must have been somewhere in the house.
"When you get three points," coach Mike Shanahan said, "it's not very good."
Anthony Armstrong continued to impress in his fight for a roster spot as a receiver, Santana Moss looked sharp, Clinton Portis ran well in a limited role and blocked well (once, anyway). Chris Cooley had a couple of catches. Some good stuff in there.
Donovan McNabb's general lack of accuracy, especially when passing to his left, seemed troubling. He mixed some sharp throws with inexplicably awful misses of open receivers.
Larry Johnson rushed eight times for four yards. If those numbers were reversed, they'd still be frightening.
The pass rush? Eh, a little pressure here and there but no free runners smacking Joe Flacco, no wild blitz combinations, very little from Brian Orakpo. Two games for this team, two sacks, both in this one, both by backups against backups. Bad.
In the ugly category? Special teams. Bamboozled by a faked punt, the not-so-special teams gave up a 51-yard run to Haruki Nakamura, lined up in front of punter Sam Koch. That set up the 1-yard run by Willis McGahee for the only touchdown of the first half.
Graham Gano missed a 47-yard field goal late in the first half and Brandon Banks saw a 27-yard punt return wiped out by a holding penalty. A serious case of the ugs here.
Let's throw in the second unit of the offensive line, which allowed linebacker Jason Phillips to abuse backup quarterback Rex Grossman on consecutive plays, failing to pick up the same blitz both times, the second leading to a lost fumble.
Let's also note that right tackle Jammal Brown, bothered by a surgical hip, lasted about one series, and that rookie left tackle Trent Williams departed early with an elbow contusion.
Nor is there any way to escape the continuing Albert Haynesworth drama.
Despite sitting out two practices last week, ostensibly due to heat exhaustion and headaches, Haynesworth complained about not getting into the game until the third quarter and poked holes in the notion that he even had headaches. He said he felt his absence from the off-season program was still being held against him and he fully intended not to take part in it next year either.
The Redskins (1-1) found themselves in more trying straits than Haynesworth. Especially in the first two quarters, which is when McNabb alternately mixed magic with madness.
The Redskins endured poor field position – three consecutive possessions started at the 14-yard line or worse – and saw their opportunity to score a touchdown evaporate when tight end Fred Davis dropped what would have been a touchdown pass in the end zone.
"I felt great," McNabb said. "I had a couple of throws I missed, some miscommunications and some balls that we missed. But the thing about that is, they were opportunity plays. We made some plays throughout this game, we drove the ball and we put ourselves in position to score. Now we just have to capitalize."
Put that in capital letters.
"We just didn't finish," Armstrong said. "Sometimes you come up short."
Give the Ravens (2-0) a little bit of the credit. They've not allowed an offensive touchdown in eight preseason quarters.
For a team that has talked up the running game, the Redskins trotted out a passing mentality. With McNabb and the first-string offense in, the Redskins ran the ball only 10 times and threw it 26. Johnson didn't appear to have holes to hit against the tough Ravens, nor did he appear particularly quick getting to the spots where those holes should have been.
"It's kind of hard to run against that defense and, going in and out, it's hard to get any rhythm," he said.
McNabb's showing alternately raised hopes and crushed dreams. Sure, he and Armstrong hooked up for 45 yards on the first possession of the game. But that ball to an open Armstrong was underthrown and Armstrong came back to get it. Then Davis failed to come up with a catch at the back of the end zone, the Redskins kicked a field goal and had no more use for the scoreboard thereafter.
"I wish we could have got in the end zone," Armstrong said. "When it was 3-3, it was going back and forth."
By the end of the Redskins' second possession, McNabb had made poor throws to the left to Mike Sellers, Clinton Portis and Cooley, costing the Redskins some opportunities. Then he'd come back with a throw like a rifle shot, such as the 31-yarder to Moss in the second quarter, which he immediately followed with a poor read and a forced throw into double coverage that Cary Williams intercepted.
When his evening ended, McNabb had completed only 11 of 26 passes for 206 yards. His passer rating: 54.3. Yardage? Good. Everything else? Bad and ugly.
A year ago, the Redskins scored exactly no points in losing by 23 to the Ravens. While they produced more in terms of yards, they didn't get a touchdown and the game slipped progressively farther out of reach with reserves in the game.
"I thought we did some good things and some poorly," Shanahan said.
Time to panic? No. Time to practice. Too many times last week, as training camp wound to its conclusion, coach Mike Shanahan stopped the workouts to reset his team's focus and concentration.
Maybe the lads got a little chesty after beating the Buffalo Bills 42-17. Maybe they needed a dose of reality.
They got it. Now, let's see what they do with it.