The Sports Xchange

By Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange

Smith shows he can still play in Ravens' win

BALTIMORE -- When the Baltimore Ravens signed wide receiver Steve Smith in the offseason, they envisioned a fearless target for quarterback Joe Flacco that could come up with big receptions at the most crucial times.

So far, Smith has delivered on those expectations.

Flacco found a diving Smith for a 24-yard touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half as the Ravens starters outplayed the Washington Redskins en route to a 23-17 victory Saturday night.

The game was the final dress rehearsal for both teams heading into the last game of the preseason when the starters will likely play only a series or two.

"I thought we played a really good, solid football game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "When you make very few mistakes, you have a good chance to win a football game. So that's where we start. No turnovers offensively. Defense, no touchdowns early."

Washington's first-team offense could not find any continuity and struggled to move the ball. Quarterback Robert Griffin III dealt with a furious pass rush and managed just 40 yards of offense in the first half. He also threw an interception to open the third quarter that led to a field goal by Baltimore (3-0) before being pulled for backup Kirk Cousins.

Griffin completed 5 of 8 passes for 20 yards and was sacked three times. The Redskins (2-1) can take some solace in their starting defense that stopped the Ravens twice on a fourth-and-1 and held them to 17 rushing yards.

"We did not move the ball very well in the first half, obviously," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Defensively, Baltimore did a nice job. They have a good defense and hats off to them.

"Everyone is going to point to Robert, but it was a total team thing. We had a chance to make some plays and we didn't make them. Nobody played good in that first half to really talk about of note."

Meanwhile, Flacco appeared to have a full grasp of the playbook by new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Flacco was 16 of 23 for 180 yards and the touchdown. Smith had seven catches for 80 yards and the touchdown, which gave Baltimore a 10-3 lead with 25 seconds left in the first half.

"You come in with free agency and everyone has a question, will he be able to play, what kind of plays can he make?" Smith said. "You go out there excited and you want to make plays. You want to stay within your game. And that kind of shows I can still play."

Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a 21-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson with 12:44 left in the game that provided a 20-10 lead. Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker made all three of his field-goal attempts with the longest from 46 yards.

Cousins was 14 of 20 for 122 yards with touchdown passes to Santana Moss and Nick Williams.

"I think we did some good things," Cousins said. "I think we moved the football, which is important. (We) moved the chains and scored points, and ultimately, that's what a quarterback is judged on."

With Ravens running back Ray Rice suspended for the first two regular-season games because of a violation of the league's personal conduct policy, Bernard Pierce worked with the first team. He had minus-3 yards on four carries before leaving with 2:29 left in the first quarter to be tested for a possible concussion after being hit by safety Brandon Meriweather.

Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson previously stuffed Pearce on a fourth-and-1 at the 50-yard line on the Ravens' first drive that gave Griffin a short field. However, Washington settled for a 32-yard field goal by Kai Forbath despite two penalties against Baltimore, including pass interference on cornerback Dominique Franks.

Griffin was not discouraged with his performance and he expects the offense to play much better by the season opener at Houston.

"All the guys on this team will make sure we're ready to go," Griffin said. "I will make sure I'm doing my job like this team needs me to do. All the work we put in the entire offseason, we know what we can do."

Washington, though, continued to struggle to move the ball and Baltimore tied the score on a 36-yard field goal by Tucker with 10:08 left in the second quarter.

The Ravens took their first lead at 10-3 with an effective two-minute offense at the end of the first half. Flacco put together an eight-play, 74-yard drive in 1:40, capped by the 24-yard pass to Smith with 25 seconds remaining.

"Steve is a good player," Flacco said. "I think we saw a little bit of everything tonight. He catches the ball great. When he gets to it, he catches it. ... I think this was a big step today with him."

NOTES: The Ravens were playing without three starters in the secondary: S Jimmy Smith (chest contusion), CB Ladarius Webb (lower back) and CB Asa Jackson (sprained ankle). ... Washington LB Brian Orakpo left the game with an ankle injury. ... Redskins RB Chris Thompson did not suit up. ... DE Jason Hatcher made his preseason debut for Washington and had a sack in the first quarter. ... Redskins CB Chase Minnifield left the game with a hamstring injury. ... Washington LT Morgan Moses suffered a knee injury in the third quarter and did not return.