A coach always wants to see his team improve from one week to the next.
But Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan couldn't have been thrilled with what transpired Saturday night at FedEx Field as he watched his team's offense sputter in a 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
In what was supposed to be a game for the likes of Larry Johnson to shine, Washington's running game appeared anything but polished.
Johnson, the former Chiefs star trying to make the Skins' roster, carried the ball eight times for just four yards. He also missed a blitz pickup that resulted in an intentional grounding call on McNabb, bobbled a pass at least a half-dozen times before dropping it, and lost the ball after tripping over his own man on a running play -- it wasn’t called a fumble because he was ruled down by contact. His less-than-stellar performance leaves the door open for another one of the myriad of backs to step up and earn the second-string spot in the backfield behind Clinton Portis, who rushed just twice for 14 yards.
Overall, the Redskins rushed for just 25 yards against the Ravens.
Donovan McNabb didn't have a strong game through the air, completing just 11 of 26 passes for 206 yards. He did, however, throw his first interception of his Redskins career -- a bad-decision ball thrown deep into double coverage. He frequently threw behind receivers and was often pressured and hit by a blitzing Ravens defense.
One thing is certain -- the Ravens defense is a much-better foe than last week's opponent. After lighting up Buffalo for 42 points a week earlier, the Skins could only manage a field goal against Baltimore.
Maybe a fake punt would have helped?
It certainly did the trick for the Ravens. Third-year safety Haruki Nakamura took a direct snap on fourth-and-6 and juked his way 51 yards -- all the way to the 1 -- in the second quarter to set up the only touchdown scored by either first-team offense in Saturday night’s 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins.
“I think the last time I touched the ball was on an interception in college,” Nakamura said. “But the last time I was running the ball like that it was probably in high school.”
The bit of trickery added entertainment value to a typical August game that lacked polish and gave both coaches plenty to work on before the regular season starts in three weeks. In addition, the Redskins had to deal with several injuries and more disgruntled talk from Haynesworth.
As for the injuries, the Redskins had two starters leave the game with knee problems: Fullback Mike Sellers hurt his left knee while blocking on a running play, and free safety Kareem Moore sprained his right knee trying to catch up to Nakamura on the fake punt play.
Moore’s injury appears to be the most severe, and he’ll have an MRI on Sunday. Sellers also said his knee was sore, but that he would be “all right.”
Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb emerged from the locker room after halftime with a large wrap around his lower left leg and ankle. By then, he was already finished for the night.
McNabb said he was “just a little sore” and that he expected to play next week against the New York Jets.
“I definitely hope so,” he said. “As it feels right now, I definitely feel like I’ll be out there for the next practice. We’ll definitely see how it kind of recovers.”
Left tackle Trent Williams, the No. 4 overall draft pick, left with a bruised elbow but said he was fine.
Shanahan will find some untidy moments when he reviews the film. Linebacker Brian Orakpo lined up offsides, linebacker London Fletcher was whistled for delay of game when he kicked the ball before it was snapped, and linebacker Andre Carter dropped an interception that went through both hands -- all on the same drive.
And here’s another miscue that had fans a bit puzzled: The home team band played the celebratory fight song “Hail to the Redskins” after the Ravens’ first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Willis McGahee that followed the fake punt.
The Ravens’ first-team defense was solid for the most part, except when it allowed three big third-down conversions on the game’s opening drive. Cornerback Fabian Washington, playing his first game since tearing a ligament in his left knee last season, ended the drive by breaking up a pass at the goal line, forcing the Redskins to settle for a field goal.