Week 14 Ravens Opponent Preview: Washington Redskins
FEAST-OR-FAMINE FRANCHISE HAS WON THREE STRAIGHT
By Joe Platania
What: Week 14, Game 13
When: 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md. (85,000)
Records: Ravens, 9-3; Redskins, 6-6
TV: WJZ-TV, Channel 13 (Marv Albert, Rich Gannon)
Radio: WIYY-FM, 97.9 (Gerry Sandusky, Qadry Ismail, Stan White)
ABOUT THE REDSKINS
- The Washington Redskins began their existence as the Boston Braves in 1932, before becoming the Boston Redskins in 1933, and played for the NFL title during their fifth season (1936). But the home-field advantage they were supposed to have was taken away because of poor attendance, and they lost to the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. The team moved to Washington the next year and is currently in its 76th season.
- The Redskins have had a feast-or-famine existence, playing in five title games and winning two between 1937 and 1945. They had 12 straight non-winning seasons at one point (1957-68), but during the post-merger era, Washington has racked up seven division titles, 16 playoff appearances and five Super Bowl berths, winning three of them.
- Recently, the Redskins have made just two playoff appearances since winning the 1999 NFC East title (2005, 2007). They have finished in last place in the four-team division during five of the last six years (2006, 2008-11) and have not reached the NFC Championship Game since beating Detroit after the 1991 season. They are 5-1 during conference title contests.
- FedEx Field, known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium when it opened in 1997 -- one year before M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore debuted -- formerly had a capacity of more than 91,000 seats, most in the NFL. A few sections were removed, lowering the number of seats by about 6,000, but it still has more than any in the league. The stadium is on a 200-acre site and was built in 17 months for $250 million of privately funded money. The team's sellout streak (374 games, 156 at FedEx) goes back to 1968.
- The stadium's location makes the Redskins the only franchise to operate, in one way or another, in three different areas: the team practices at Redskin Park in Loudoun County, Va., represents the nation's capital and plays in Maryland.
- Against the Ravens, Washington has lost three of four regular-season games, winning only during the Ravens' 2000 championship season, a 10-3 game in Landover. The Ravens were the first visitors to win at the new stadium during its 1997 debut campaign, getting a 20-play drive to help during the victory in a game-long deluge of rain. The teams haven't met in Landover since 2004.
- When the Baltimore Colts' 15-5 record against the Redskins is added, Washington is 6-18 against Baltimore-based NFL teams. The Ravens and Redskins have met seven times during the preseason, with Baltimore winning five of those games, including the only preseason overtime game in Ravens history (2005). Weather has twice been a factor in Landover, with thunderstorms wiping out a scrimmage as well as the second half of a preseason contest.
- The Redskins are currently ranked seventh in total offense (first rushing at 167.2 yards per game, 21st passing, eighth scoring at 26 points per game) and 29th in overall defense (fourth vs. rush, 31st vs. pass, 23rd scoring). In a statistical quirk, they have scored 31 touchdowns and allowed the same amount.
- Washington is one of four NFC teams in the top seven in turnover ratio, currently sporting a plus-11, two shy of the Ravens' plus-13. The Redskins have intercepted 14 passes, tied for fifth-most in the league, and have thrown six interceptions, tied with San Francisco for second fewest. Washington's 11 total giveaways are tied with Baltimore for second fewest. The team has had five games without a turnover this year, tying a club record.
- The Redskins have been rather ordinary in the red zone on both sides of the ball, having scored touchdowns 52.6 percent of the time out of 38 red-zone trips, ninth most in the league. Defensively, they have allowed opponents to get inside their 20-yard line 40 times, one fewer than the top-ranked Ravens, but have yielded 22 touchdowns to 15 for Baltimore.
- On third downs, the Redskins have surprisingly not been ranked higher than 28th all season long, which is where they currently reside with a 32.9 percent conversion rate. Defensively, Washington is at the bottom of the NFL, allowing chain-moving plays nearly 45 percent of the time. But Washington is tied for the league lead with 11 fourth-down conversions and is averaging a league-best 6.2 yards per play.
- The Redskins have been a penalty-prone outfit, having committed 97 accepted infractions, tied with St. Louis for second most in the league (Dallas, 98). All told, 37 different Redskins have committed penalties, four more than Baltimore, and the team's 826 penalty yards lead the league; the Ravens are second with 816.
- Washington has committed 22 false-start infractions, second most to Dallas' 25, and nine defensive pass interference calls, tied with Cleveland and Jacksonville for third most in the league. The Redskins have 15 more penalties and 132 more penalty yards than their opponents, the fifth-worst differential in the league.
- Bolstering the pass-interference total are the five accepted calls on ex-Maryland standout and former Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger has eight penalties (four false starts, three holds) and left tackle Trent Williams has five (three, two). The offensive line's graybeards are seventh-year center Will Montgomery and seventh-year right guard (and ex-Raven) Chris Chester. The line has allowed 26 sacks, three fewer than Baltimore's.
- Despite injuries on defense and sometimes spotty play on offense, the Redskins have won three straight games to raise their record to 6-6, one game behind the NFC East-leading and defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. They are tied with their archrivals, the Dallas Cowboys, in second place. Washington's three-game streak is tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC's longest current streak.
- If the Redskins win Sunday, it would give them a winning record this late during the season for the first time since 2008. It would also mark the team's first four-game winning streak since September of that same year.
- Sunday's game against the Ravens is the last in a Redskins stretch of three home games during a four-week span. After playing Baltimore, Washington goes on the road to take on Cleveland and Philadelphia before closing the regular season against Dallas in a game that could have a playoff spot hanging in the balance.
- Among the anticipated offensive skill-position starters, only wideout Pierre Garcon has faced the Ravens before, catching 11 passes for 154 yards during three games. Defensively, safety Madieu Williams has faced the Ravens eight times, mostly as a Cincinnati Bengal, but six defensive starters will be seeing Baltimore for the first time Sunday.
- Head coach Mike Shanahan is in his 17th season as an NFL head coach, having spent 14 as the Denver Broncos' leader (1995-2008) before taking over for Jim Zorn in Washington in 2010. He is the 28th coach in Redskins history, sporting a 17-27 record with the team and a cumulative mark of 171-130; his next win would vault him past Joe Gibbs for 12th on the all-time coaching win list. Shanahan won two Super Bowls with the Broncos and was a San Francisco assistant when it won Super Bowl XXIX against San Diego.
- Shanahan, who employs his son Kyle as offensive coordinator, has faced the Ravens during six regular-season games and one playoff contest, posting a 3-4 record. But he hasn't coached against Baltimore since 2006, when his Broncos delivered the first loss to a Ravens team that would finish 13-3 that season. Against teams that currently make up the AFC North Division, Shanahan is 16-9.
- The Redskins aggressively moved up in the draft to take Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. During the last three weeks, Griffin leads the NFL with a 140 passer rating and nine touchdown passes with one pickoff; he has 17 scoring tosses and four interceptions for the year. His 714 rushing yards are the most by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, breaking Cam Newton's record, set last year. Griffin has fumbled 10 times, but the Redskins have recovered eight of them.
- Griffin, engineer of the team's pistol formation -- in which the quarterback lines up 4 yards behind center instead of the 8 yards required for a shotgun snap -- is the first passer in NFL history with four touchdown passes of 60 or more yards and a rushing score of 60 or more. During six home games, Griffin has performed to a 101.7 passer rating. On third downs, he is playing to a 93.3 rating (sixth best in the league), and his fourth-quarter number is 91.4, just behind Joe Flacco's 92.1.
- The Redskins' top-ranked rushing attack is by virtue of Griffin's deceptive read-option takeoffs and the bruising running of sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic); both Griffin and Morris have scored six touchdowns and have 335 of the team's 379 carries. Morris has 1,106 rushing yards, tied for first among league rookies and a new club rookie mark, and 75 or more yards during 10 of his first 12 pro games. The lead blocker is third-year, 251-pound fullback Darrel Young, a former street free agent from Villanova.
- As further proof of the running game's effectiveness, the Redskins have had 125 or more rushing yards during 11 of their 12 games this year. No other team has more than eight such efforts. Plus, Washington is the first team in league history to have a 2,000-yard rookie passer and 1,000-yard rookie rusher.
- The Redskins used free agency to bolster their already deep receiving corps, getting Joshua Morgan (team-high 39 catches, 10.2 average) from San Francisco and Pierre Garcon (23, 15.2, three touchdowns) from Indianapolis. Garcon had 108 yards on six grabs against the Ravens in 2009 and had 106 on eight catches against the New York Giants last week.
- The deep threat is still Santana Moss, who has seven touchdowns among his 29 receptions and a 14.3 average. Moss has five touchdowns during his last six games. The Redskins drafted another former Miami Hurricane when they took Leonard Hankerson during the third round of the 2011 draft. Hankerson has 30 catches, a 13.3-yard average, and one touchdown this season.
- Tight end Fred Davis, a 2008 second-rounder, had 24 catches before being placed on injured reserve, and third-year tight end Logan Paulsen has 18. Veteran Chris Cooley has returned to the team, mainly as a blocker. Speedy deep threat Aldrick Robinson, a sixth-round pick in 2011 from SMU, already has three long touchdowns in just 11 receptions.
- Like the Ravens, the Redskins' defense has been hampered by season-ending injuries to several big-name players like safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive lineman Adam Carriker and pass-rushing linebacker Brian Orakpo. But their 3-4 scheme is still capably handled up front by seven-year veterans and former NFC East rivals Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, as well as second-year end Jarvis Jenkins.
- Rob Jackson and Ryan Kerrigan, the latter a 2011 first-round pick, are the outside linebackers. Kerrigan leads the team with 6.5 of its 21 sacks, while no one else has more than 2.5. He also has six pass breakups and a pickoff runback for a score, and is the only active player with more than 10 sacks and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Jackson, one of nine Redskins with at least one interception, has two pickoffs, one of which he has run back for a touchdown.
- The inside linebackers are third-year man Perry Riley and 15-year veteran London Fletcher, who played for the Super Bowl XXXIV champion St. Louis Rams in 1999. They each have seven pass breakups and are 1-2 on the team in tackles (Fletcher, 100; Riley, 92). Fletcher also has two interceptions. Despite being hampered by injuries this year, Fletcher has played in 236 straight games, tied with Ronde Barber for the longest current streak in the league, and has started 195 in a row.
- Wilson and nine-year veteran DeAngelo Hall are the starting corners, whose ranks got thinned this week with the suspension of Cedric Griffin for four games because of the use of performance enhancers. Hall has a team-high 11 of the team's 67 pass breakups and has 72 tackles, fourth on the team. He also has a team-high four interceptions, as well as pickoffs during two of his last three games. With one more pickoff, Hall would become the sixth active player to have 40 career interceptions.
- The strong safety is Reed Doughty, who had to hastily step in after the death of Sean Taylor, with ex-Maryland star Madieu Williams at free safety. Williams, a former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winner while with the Minnesota Vikings, has six pass breakups and 76 tackles, third most on the team, as well as an interception return for a touchdown. Doughty has 52 stops.
- Placekicker Kai Forbath is a first-year player from UCLA, who was signed off the street after ex-Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff went 7-for-12 on field goals during the season's first five games. Forbath is perfect on 11 kicks -- six of them between 40 and 49 yards -- and has a team-high 52 points. He has 12 kickoff touchbacks, tied for the fourth fewest in the league.
- Former Philadelphia Eagles punter Sav Rocca is doing the same job for Washington and is the field-goal and extra-point holder as well. Rocca has two touchbacks and 17 coffin-corner punts out of 51 total attempts, grossing 43.9 yards per punt and netting 37.8. Long snapper Nick Sundberg spent a few weeks with the Ravens two seasons ago, when Morgan Cox was injured.
- Brandon Banks is the Redskins' primary return specialist, averaging 6.6 yards per punt return (longest return: 27 yards) and 23.9 per kick runback (55). Despite those numbers, the coverage teams have been good, allowing just 6.4 yards per punt return (fifth fewest in the league) and 22.4 on kickoffs. Their own average drive start after kickoffs is the 20.3-yard line, third worst in the league, but their opponents are averaging 20.9 (ninth best).
- Redskins defensive line coach Jacob Burney held the same job with the Ravens on Ted Marchibroda's staff (1996-98). Offensive line coach Chris Foerster handled the same unit in Baltimore under Brian Billick (2005-07). Strength coach Ray Wright was on the University of Maryland staff in 2001. The staff also has two former NFL head coaches in Raheem Morris (defensive backs) and Jim Haslett (defensive coordinator).
- Notable celebrities who are Redskins fans include NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., actress Sandra Bullock and NBA superstar Kevin Durant, who played high school basketball just outside Washington.
PREDICTION: The Redskins appear to have found their form at just the right time of year, while the Ravens' offensive slump has them walking a tightrope. Could a certain playoff berth be slipping away, as it did in 2004? ... Redskins 20, Ravens 17.
Posted Dec. 6, 2012