Ravens, Redskins spin records before preseason finale
LANDOVER, Md. -- The last time the Washington Redskins were winless in the preseason, they went on to win the Super Bowl.
One of the Redskins' assistants, Al Saunders, is riding a nine-game losing streak in exhibition games -- six in Kansas City and three in Washington -- despite loads of offensive talent at his disposal in both places.
So, does it really matter that the Ravens and Redskins have been sputtering this August? Is there any real urgency for either team to show some momentum when they meet Thursday night in the most meaningless game of the year?
"Honestly, for me, I don't really care what goes on in preseason," Washington receiver Santana Moss said.
Not all of the coaches and players are that cavalier, but many Ravens and Redskins seem to have reincarnated themselves as spin doctors this week to explain their teams' struggles. Washington (0-3) has been outscored 87-17 over three games, including last week's 41-0 shutout at New England, while Baltimore (1-2) had a major letdown performance in a 30-7 loss at Minnesota.
"You never want to get caught up in preseason scores," Baltimore middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "To harp on anything that deals with preseason that means nothing at the end of the day, you're wasting your time and energy."
Lewis is correct to some degree. Preseason scores and records are often misleading, and the only true way to evaluate those games is to check how the starters fared against the other team's starters while running basic plays with little game-planning.
But the Ravens and Redskins fail that test. Washington's starting offense, which is trying to learn Saunders' scheme, hasn't scored a point in 11 drives. Baltimore's starters, led by new quarterback Steve McNair, scored their only touchdown in the first drive of the first game.
"Obviously we're not where we want to be, but we've seen what we're capable of, and we know we can get back to that," Baltimore tight end Todd Heap said. "I don't really worry about that stuff."
Even with that attitude, the Ravens didn't come close to matching the extreme self-confidence expressed by two Redskins assistants this week. On Monday, Saunders spoke at great length in defense of his offense. On Tuesday, Gregg Williams did the same for his defense. The message was loud and clear: We know what we're doing, and all will be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against Minnesota.
"I've been in this business a long time," Saunders said, "and I know (the offense) works at game speed if you've got the right guys to do it, and if they execute it. So I don't have any qualms about that."
Williams even said the 41-0 loss created a "nice" atmosphere because it humbled his players and made them more coachable. Like Saunders, he emphasized he's been running a simplified version of his playbook.
"We don't think about giving up the 41 points," Williams said. "But do we have a confidence in the plan? Yes. Have a confidence in who we're coaching? Yup. Have a confidence of what it's going to take to get ready to play in the opener? Yup."
The steady voice on each team was the one at the top. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said he was concerned about his team's play, and Ravens coach Brian Billick said he gave his players a "butt-chewing."
"We can't dismiss or forget about the way we played in Minnesota," Billick said. "We can't slough it off and say, 'It's only preseason.' It was a miserable performance across the board. We should have played at a higher level in the third preseason game."
Unfortunately for both coaches, the final preseason game isn't the time to do a lot of fixing. The starters traditionally play only a portion of the first quarter to minimize the risk of injury. Fassel, for example, would be happy to see just one good drive from his offense.
"I hope it's not three plays and out," Fassel said. "If it's 10, 12 plays, it'll be great. We just want to be sharp and crisp."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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