The Redskins' offensive struggles continued on Sunday night in a 17-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens 17-10. It was the Redskins' fourth consecutive loss, dropping their record to 1-4 on the season.
"The biggest focus for me right now is that, as a team, we have to hang tough," head coach Joe Gibbs said after the game. "I believe we're a good football team. I told our guys that and I think we're going to find a way to work our way through this.
"The natural thing is, when this happens, and I've been through this before, we have to make sure we stay together."
The Redskins' offense mustered 107 total yards, with running back Clinton Portis rushing for 53 yards on 25 carries. Quarterback Mark Brunell was 13-of-29 for 83 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"There has to be some momentum generated from first downs and we're just not getting them," Brunell said. "It's frustrating. We've got a lot of work to do."
Among the more significant news from the game was on the injury front. Strong safety Matt Bowen left the game early in the first quarter with a right knee injury. His status will be evaluated on Monday.
With Andre Lott declared inactive due to a hamstring injury, backups Todd Franz and Ryan Clark took turns replacing Bowen in the lineup.
The Redskins built a 10-0 lead at halftime, but in the third quarter the lead was squandered on two plays. The Ravens scored on a defensive touchdown and a 78-yard punt return--all within a matter of three minutes on the game clock--to take a 14-10 lead on the Redskins.
Baltimore had been held scoreless by the Redskins' defense for 38 minutes. Midway through the third quarter, the Ravens got on the scoreboard when safety Ed Reed blitzed into the Redskins' backfield and sacked quarterback Mark Brunell. Reed swatted the ball from Brunell's hands and scooped up the fumble. Reed ran 22 yards for the touchdown.
The play seemed to shift momentum. On the Redskins' next offensive series, they were shut down on three plays.
Tom Tupa's 45-yard punt was caught by Ravens' return specialist B.J. Sams at his own 22-yard line. Sams, who had a punt return for a touchdown last week in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, ran toward the center of the field into open field, then cut right toward the sideline. He avoided Tupa's tackle and raced into the end zone for the score.
In the fourth quarter, the Ravens added a 33-yard field goal to increase their lead to 17-10. Strong running by Jamal Lewis--he finished the game with 116 yards on 28 carries--moved the Ravens downfield into position for the field goal.
Both the Redskins and Ravens had entered Sunday night's game with stout defenses--and in the early going, both units lived up to the hype. In the first half, the Washington and Baltimore seemed to trade 3-and-outs on each possession. In fact, the first quarter consisted of just one first down by either team.
Fittingly, it was the Redskins' defense that set up the first score of the game. Midway through the second quarter, cornerback Fred Smoot intercepted a tipped pass from Ravens' quarterback Kyle Boller and returned it to Baltimore's 28-yard line.
Brunell quickly found Laveranues Coles for a 10-yard pickup for a first down along the left sideline. But on the next set of downs, with the Redskins at Baltimore's 7-yard line, the offense was stuffed when running back Ladell Betts was stopped on a 3rd-and-two.
The Redskins settled for a 26-yard field goal by John Hall and a 3-0 lead.
Another turnover would set up the Redskins' second score of the game. Franz intercepted a Boller pass late in the first half and returned it 30 yards to Baltimore's 8-yard line.
One play later, Brunell found tight end Chris Cooley on a 7-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Brunell scrambled to his left, waiting for a receiver to find open space in the end zone. Just as Brunell was a step from the sideline, he threw a dart across his body to Cooley, who caught the ball a step in the end zone.
Washington went into halftime full of optimism, but it evaporated along with the lead. The Redskins' locker room was somber after the game as players struggled to find answers for the latest loss.
"We need to play four good quarters," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We need to find a way to dominate a team in the second half like we did in the first half."
Added Gibbs: "We can turn it around. I told our players that. I believe it, so we'll see. But you've got to make it happen."