LANDOVER - Finding a winner in their quarterback competition became the least of the Ravens' worries last night.
Lacking concentration on defense and determination on offense, the Ravens watched a local rivalry turn into a rout, falling to the Washington Redskins, 24-3, before 70,460 at FedEx Field. It marked the worst preseason loss in the Ravens' eight-year history.
After taking a short drive down the interstate, the Ravens (1-2) suffered a breakdown in every facet against the Redskins (1-2). There was little rhythm on offense, too many penalties on defense and one costly fumble on special teams.
"I apologize ahead of time because like my team tonight, right now I have nothing for you," coach Brian Billick said. "I wouldn't begin to know what to tell you. We had nothing. We had no passion, no focus, no intensity, no physicality, no responding to adversity. We just had nothing. I don't know if I have ever felt like this."
Trying to dissect whether Kyle Boller or Chris Redman was the more effective quarterback will be a challenge. Boller had no running game in his first NFL start and Redman had to run for his life in his first go-around with the second team.
Boller finished 14-for-20 for 101 yards and managed just one effective drive in six series. The rookie out of California had little help as running backs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor combined for 7 yards on six carries in the first half.
In his first five possessions, he was shaky, going 7-for-13 for 42 yards. The 19th overall pick in the draft was caught staring down receivers at times and showed his nerves by throwing into the dirt on a simple swing pass.
Redman, who finished 17-for-28 for 163 yards, took over in the second half and had trouble faring better because of the constant pass rush. The fourth-year veteran was impressive getting rid of the ball in hairy situations and stretched the defense with a 36-yard pass to Marc Lester when the Ravens were backed up against their own end zone.
But his most impressive drive ended on an interception by Clifton Smith at the Redskins' 14-yard line.
The Ravens' defense further clouded the picture. After allowing just one touchdown in 27 series this preseason, the defense gave up three touchdowns last night to a once-struggling Washington offense.
"I was a little too excited at first," Boller said of his first start. "I was trying to guide the ball and made some mistakes. I was more comfortable after a couple of series and settled down. The game slowed and got easier as it went on."
The Ravens' troubles started almost from the beginning.
After the Ravens' defense forced a three-and-out, returner Lamont Brightful casually fielded his first punt of the preseason and it cost him. The ball bounced off his right arm and former Raven Patrick Johnson recovered at the Ravens' 27-yard line.
The Ravens' defense held tough, yielding a 27-yard field goal by John Hall on the drive, but it couldn't live up to its devastating preseason play.
Washington closed out the first quarter by driving 75 yards, a third of which came off Ravens penalties. Chris McAlister's illegal use of the hands penalty negated an interception by Peter Boulware, and Ray Lewis (late hit) and Terrell Suggs (offside) further ushered the Redskins down the field.
Trung Canidate ran up the middle relatively untouched to score from 3 yards out, giving the Redskins a 10-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. It was the longest series of the preseason for the Ravens' starting defense, which hadn't allowed a scoring drive over 55 yards in the previous two games.
The Ravens' defensive errors were only compounded on their next series.
After a roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Joe Salave'a, the Ravens stumbled in defending a flea flicker. Washington receiver Laveranues Coles caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Ramsey after Ravens safety Ed Reed tripped on Coles' foot as they reached the end zone.
"You have to respond to adversity and we didn't a couple of times in the first half," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "We had a chance to make the play on the flea flicker. Our players saw it and we didn't do it."
The Redskins' second touchdown in three minutes staked them to a 17-0 advantage. At this point, the Ravens were outgained 132-16.
"The defense's penalties and turnovers cost us," Billick said. "It was a bad performance."
Said linebacker Peter Boulware: "If we're going to be as good as we think we can be, we have to respond to all situations, including bad field position. We have to step it up."
Boller's last possession was his most productive.
In the final minutes of the first half, he went 7-for-7 for 59 yards to direct the Ravens into Washington territory for the first time. But the series wasn't exactly perfect for Boller.
On first down at the Redskins' 12, Boller scrambled instead of throwing the ball out of bounds, getting dropped for a 4-yard loss and forcing the Ravens to use their second timeout to stop the clock. After a couple of short completions, the Ravens had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Matt Stover and went into halftime trailing 17-3.
The Ravens' fortune changed briefly at the start of the second half.
Will Demps picked off Redskins quarterback Rob Johnson and set up the Ravens at the Washington 15. The Ravens, though, spun their wheels at the 8 and decided to go on fourth-and-three rather than kick a field goal.
Facing pressure, Redman found a way to throw to the right flat, where wide-open running back Chester Taylor dropped the pass.
Washington topped off the romp when Sultan McCullough scored on a 15-yard touchdown run up the middle early in the fourth quarter.
"I think our fans will appreciate me bringing back a Pittsburgh win than this one," linebacker Ray Lewis said, referring to the season opener at their AFC North rival. "That's where my mind-set is."
Next for Ravens
Preseason opponent: New York Giants
Site: M&T; Bank Stadium
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)