Ravens start strong, but reserves falter in 31-13 loss to Washington

The Ravens started strong, but reserves couldn't keep up with the Redskins in a 31-13 loss.

A week after they were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens came out in an ornery mood.

There was wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. getting into a fight with Washington Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver, and both getting ejected. There was coach John Harbaugh sprinting onto the field during the fight and then confronting Redskins coach Jay Gruden. There was also the rare instance of two Ravens getting roughing the passer penalties on the same play.

Enough positive things happened with his starters to otherwise put Harbaugh and company in a little better mood. However, the Ravens' backups had a brutal night in a 31-13 loss to the Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I was really happy with the way the guys stepped up and really happy with the way the receivers played,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We need to clean some things up, but overall, it's something to feel pretty good about. There is something to build off of, going into the first week of the season."

Leading 13-0 late in the second quarter, the Ravens surrendered 31 straight points and the defense allowed Redskins backup quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy to look like legitimate starting options with Robert Griffin III ailing.

Cousins completed 20 of 27 passes for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception. McCoy then relieved him in the second half and threw touchdown passes to Rashad Ross on Washington's first two possessions of the third quarter.

The poor play of the Ravens' backups on defense continued a disturbing preseason trend as the team's depth has been tested after a slew of injuries.

The Ravens suffered a few more against Washington. Starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan hurt his right knee early in the first quarter. He went to the locker room and did not return. Rotational defensive lineman Lawrence Guy also left the game to have his knee examined, while defensive end DeAngelo Tyson hurt his right shoulder. And Ryan Jensen, who started at left tackle with Eugene Monroe out with a bruised forearm, was forced from the game with a concussion.

It certainly wasn't all bad. In their most extensive action of the preseason, Flacco and the first-team offense scored on their first three drives and would have scored on all four had Justin Tucker not missed a field goal.

Flacco finished the game and likely the preseason — the Ravens' starter traditionally doesn't play in the fourth and final preseason game — by completing 8 of 13 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Before his ejection, Smith caught four passes for 95 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown on the Ravens' first drive.

Smith was ejected when he came to the aid of wide receiver Kamar Aiken after the Raven was slammed to the ground by Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson. Smith entered the fray and appeared to exchange several punches with Culliver. After the ejection, he retreated to a suite at M&T Bank Stadium and watched the rest of the game with his family.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh, who ran across the field to separate some of his players, went back to the sideline but not before having something to say to Gruden. It wasn't clear what ticked off the Ravens coach, but there was no further incident between the two sidelines.

The first-team defense, which offered little resistance in last week's 40-17 loss to the Eagles, authored a much better performance, with Terrell Suggs intercepting Cousins to set up Tucker's 31-yard field goal on the Ravens' second possession. The Ravens held the Redskins off the scoreboard until late in the second quarter when Jamison Crowder caught a pass that was deflected by Andre Roberts for a 22-yard touchdown.

"It feels good to start fast like that and execute," nose tackle Brandon Williams said. "Now, we just need to continue that as we keep working forward. Tonight gives us a boost. It's good to see that the 'ones' are out there fighting and starting fast. We'll be ready to go into the first week, and we'll be ready to execute."

On special teams, Asa Jackson had a 103-yard return in the final 30 seconds of the second quarter. Jackson was tripped up at 2-yard line. He fumbled on a punt return in the fourth quarter.

Once starters left the game in the second quarter, things turned ugly quickly. Backup quarterback Matt Schaub struggled mightily, completing just 3 of 7 passes for 17 yards and an interception. The interception was a particularly poor decision as Schaub threw the ball up for grabs rather than just tossing it out of bounds. Four plays later, McCoy hit Ross for a 9-yard score to make it a 28-13 game and to send most of the crowd — at least the fans wearing purple — to the exits.

Bryn Renner replaced Schaub in the fourth quarter and he threw in an interception on his first possession. It was that kind of night for the Ravens.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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