Commanders Down Ravens, Snap Preseason Win Streak
The Baltimore Ravens had their 24-game preseason win streak snapped by the Washington Commanders on Monday night by a final of 29-28. It had been since 2015, since the Ravens last lost in the preseason, as they would fall in a similar fashion, a one point loss, in a 20-19 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Ravens were without many of their offensive and defensive starters as well as quarterback Tyler Huntley, as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury. That left veteran Josh Johnson and second year quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. to lead the way for the Ravens as each quarterback played a half, with Johnson getting the start.
A strong opening drive by Johnson led to a quick seven-point lead for the Ravens after Johnson found rookie first rounder Zay Flowers wide open near the sideline. Flowers then used his speed and agility that has been raved about all preseason to finish of the 26-yard touchdown. Johnson would find Tylan Wallace right before halftime for a seven-yard score, a back shoulder throw, similar to the touchdown Wallace caught last week against the Eagles.
Johnson would finish the night going 10-for-12 for 145 yards and two touchdowns with his lone blemish coming on an interception looking for James Proche in the endzone. Proche had an opportunity to make a play on the ball but had the ball knocked away by Commanders cornerback Jartavius Martin before Martin corralled the ball for an interception, returning it 59-yard into Ravens territory.
With very few starters playing on the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens struggled to stop the Commanders first team offense. Commanders newly named starting quarterback Sam Howell had a great night throwing for 188 yards on 19-of-25 passing and two touchdowns. The Ravens secondary also had issued stopping the Commanders receivers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Dyami Brown who were the Commanders top three leading receivers on Monday night.
The Ravens took a three-point deficit into halftime, but in the second half Ravens quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. picked up right where Johnson left off. A strong opening offensive drive by Brown Jr. in the Ravens in the third was capped off by a Travis Vokelek 17-yard catch and score, Vokelek’s first of two scores on the night. Brown Jr. would again find Vokelek this time for an eight-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Ravens running backs Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon, and Keaton Mitchell led the way with on the ground rushing for a combined 90 yards on 11 carries.
But while the Ravens offense had a solid Monday night the defense struggled. A touchdown with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter cut the Ravens lead to two-points. After a Ravens punt the Commanders got the ball back at their own nine-yard line with all three timeouts and just under three minutes remaining in the game.
With nearly minute to go on fourth and long the Ravens looked to seal the victory, but a pass interference penalty on Corey Mayfeild Jr. would keep the Commanders hopes alive. Commanders quarterback Jake Fromm would move the Commanders down to the Ravens 31-yard line. With just 14 seconds left, Commanders kicker Joey Slye connected on a 49-yard field goal to give the Commanders a 29-28 lead.
With a slim chance from their own 25-yard line Anthony Brown Jr. threw a desperation pass deep down the right side intended for Tylan Wallace, but it was intercepted by Commanders safety Kendall Smith.
It wasn’t all bad for the Ravens defensively as some players looking to make the final roster stood out. Cornerback Jermey Lucien led the team with seven tackles and safety Ar’Darius Washington had a strong night breaking up three passes including a critical one late that could have moved the Commanders even closer for the winning field goal.
Linebacker Malik Hamm had another strong game as he continues to make his case for the 53-man roster. Hamm forced a fumble late in the third quarter and adding two tackles.
Finally, newly acquired cornerback Tae Hayes introduced himself by recording four tackles including a tackle for loss, one pass deflection, and an interception off Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett early in the fourth quarter.
Brown Jr. needed a strong performance on Monday night after a poor outing last week. Brown Jr. finished Monday night going 6-for-10 for 40 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 37 yards on four carries.
Brown Jr. and Johnson appear to be fighting for the third quarterback spot on the Ravens roster and through two games the race appears to be close, which could give the Ravens a tough decision with just one final preseason game left to go.
Overall, the Ravens have had a productive preseason thus far as the final roster is becoming clearer. The secondary continues to be an issue as Sam Howell looked calm finding the open windows throughout the first half. Beyond the regular starters who have not played this preseason, no one who has played thus has truly separated themselves from the pack.
The Ravens will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers on Saturday for one final tune up before the start of the regular season, and for some the last opportunity to show the Ravens coaches why they deserve to be on the final roster.
Saturday will not only be the final preseason game of 2023, but it will also be an opportunity for the Ravens to start yet another preseason win streak.
WR Zay Flowers
QB Josh Johnson
G Ben Cleveland
WR Tylan Wallace
RB Justice Hill
CB Tae Hayes
S Ar’Darius Washington
TE Travis Vokelek
LB Trenton Simpson
CB Corey Mayfield Jr.
DT Kaieem Caesar
LB Tavius Robinson
WR Dontay Demus Jr.
RB Owen Wright