Thanks in part to the Washington Redskins’ (7-6) lackluster pass rush and a costly fumble by Alfred Morris, the Baltimore Ravens (9-4) nearly had today’s win against their Beltway rivals in the bag.
With the Ravens leading 28-20 late into the fourth quarter, the last thing the Redskins needed to see was Robert Griffin III keeled over on the field wincing in pain.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what 81,178 at FedEx Field witnessed Sunday afternoon after Griffin’s 13-yard scramble on second and 19 with less than five minutes left in regulation. Griffin came off the field with what the Redskins public relations staff later announced as a sprained right knee, only to return one play later before leaving the game for good.
Griffin had his work cut out for him against Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Neither team’s defense put forth an extraordinary effort in the first half, but the Redskins’ pass rush was virtually nonexistent. It didn’t help matters any that the Redskins committed eight penalties on the day – including two encroachment calls that led to a Ravens touchdown.
The Redskins wasted no time against the Ravens’ defense. The Burgundy and Gold drove for 71 yards over 10 plays on the opening drive, which culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to Josh Morgan.
However, Ray Rice was an absolute menace. On the second play of the Ravens’ possession, he scrambled down the left side for 46 yards before Madieu Williams and DeAngelo Hall finally caught him. On his next possession, he ran for another 12 yards and, with no pressure from the Redskins’ pass rush, Flacco connected with Anquan Boldin for the tying touchdown.
Rookie Alfred Morris – who rushed for 122 yards over 23 carries – provided the momentum the Redskins needed with a 48-yard run on their next possession. Leonard Hankerson caught one for 29 yards before Griffin turned to Morris once again for the go-ahead touchdown to make it 14-7.
While the Ravens sorted out their defensive woes in the second quarter, however, the Redskins did not.
On the Ravens’ first possession, Lorenzo Alexander managed a neutral zone infraction, and on third and 1 from Washington’s 36-yard line, Jarvis Jenkins provided the Ravens with the perfect setup on an ill-timed encroachment penalty to give them a first down.
On the next snap, Flacco found Boldin for a 31-yard touchdown pass to tie the game once again.
The Redskins lost their opportunity to answer with a touchdown of their own once Morris managed a sloppy fumble, which Paul Kruger scooped up at Washington’s 23-yard line.
Flacco managed a fumble of his own on the next drive, but Bernard Pierce recovered it in time to set up Flacco’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta for the 21-14 lead.
It was clear at the onset of the second half that the Redskins adjusted their defensive strategy.
They finally learned to slow down Rice and they put pressure on Flacco, who showed little awareness in the pocket.
From Baltimore’s 46-yard line, Rob Jackson sacked Flacco and forced the fumble, which he scooped up to put Washington in position to strike first.
The Ravens defense forced Washington to settle for a field goal, but Kai Forbath continued his perfect streak – this time, with a 48-yarder to bring the Redskins back within four points. Forbath later centered another field goal – from 49 yards – to further trim the Ravens’ lead to just 21-20.
Both teams remained on high alert on defense throughout the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for Washington, Rice figured out how to break through the Redskins’ front line. With just over five minutes left in regulation, he carried the ball into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown to give Baltimore an eight-point cushion.
Griffin went down in pain on a nasty hit from Haloti Ngata on the Redskins’ next possession. Griffin appeared to indicate from the sideline that he would sit out just one play – and that’s exactly what he did. However, he was clearly limping on his return and, after he managed an intentional grounding penalty, his adrenaline wore too thin and the pain became too much to bear.
Enter Kirk Cousins.
With the game on the line, Cousins tossed to Hankerson for 15 yards and astonished Redskins fans with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon on third down with just 29 seconds left in regulation. Cousins then ran the qurterback draw for the two-point conversion to tie it 28-28.
Flacco took a knee to send it to overtime but Ryan Kerrigan managed a huge stop on Rice, and Alexander and Hall pulled through in time to shut down Flacco’s run.
The Redskins turned to none other than Kai Forbath, who centered a 34-yard field goal to give the Redskins their fourth straight win. Forbath is now 14-14 on the year and his career, and is 8-8 from 40+ yards.