THE NON-FEUD

‘D’ line moves to head of the class amid mostly av­er­age per­for­mances Ravens, Red­skins say there’s lit­tle bad blood be­tween neigh­bors

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - Mike Pre­ston By Childs Walker

The Oak­land Raiders un­veiled the blue­print for beat­ing the Ravens on Sun­day, and it’s the same one used in pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

If a team has a qual­ity quar­ter­back and de­cent re­ceivers, then it stands a good chance of de­feat­ing the Ravens (3-1) be­cause they strug­gle in cov­er­age and can’t man­u­fac­ture a con­sis­tent pass rush off the edge.

The Ravens got a break in three of their first four games this year. The Buf­falo Bills didn’t have a top passer and nei­ther did the Jack­sonville Jaguars, even though both had a qual­ity wide re­ceiver. The Cleve­land Browns had noth­ing. It’s the bor­der war that ain’t, the blood feud that never was. When the Ravens and Wash­ing­ton Red­skins meet Sun­day at M&T Bank Sta­dium, they’ll do so for just the sixth time in the reg­u­lar sea­son since the Ravens be­gan play in 1996.

That’s not enough for any real an­i­mos­ity to brew, play­ers said, even if prickly feel­ings have per­sisted for gen­er­a­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bal­ti­more.

“Per­son­ally, I don’t really feel like there’s a ri­valry-type sit­u­a­tion,” Ravens cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith said. “They’re not in our con­fer­ence. Our ri­vals are the Pa­tri­ots, Cincin­nati, Pitts­burgh and Cleve­land. Those are the teams we really feel some­thing about. Other than that, I think ev­ery team is the same.”

The south­ern per­spec­tive was largely the same.

“Well, we don’t get a chance to play them very of­ten,” Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den said. “We usu­ally play them in the pre­sea­son. So I don’t know how big it is. But be­ing in such close prox­im­ity, I would think there’s a nat­u­ral ri­valry there. So I know the fans of both fran­chises are ex­cited about this game, as the play­ers are also.”

The Ravens aren’t spend­ing their week pon­der­ing Bal­ti­more’s tra­di­tional re­sent­ment to­ward its hoity-toity neigh­bor. They’re wor­ried about fix­ing their pass­ing game, putting heat on Red­skins quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins and not los­ing two games in a row at home. That’s life in the NFL, where ev­ery game is im­por­tant and the prepa­ra­tions are highly spe­cific.

Ravens line­backer Ter­rell Suggs is a con­nois­seur of ri­val­ries. He used the “R” word when asked about the Red­skins, but only in a jovial way.

“It’s a fun ri­valry, be­cause they’re not in our di­vi­sion or con­fer­ence, but we’re so close,” Suggs said. “There’s no bad blood be­tween­these twoteams. We­just­like to play each other. A cou­ple of years back, we scrim­maged against each other and we had pre­sea­son games against each other. Some peo­ple even live down there in Lau­rel close to them. It’s not bad blood, but it’s al­ways fun when these two teams get to play ac­tual, real games.”

Fel­low line­backer Zachary Orr, whose fa­ther, Terry, played for the Red­skins from 1986 to 1993, es­sen­tially agreed.

“It is a ri­valry, I guess, for brag­ging rights,” Orr said. “There are Ravens fans in D.C. and Vir­ginia and Red­skins fans here in Bal­ti­more. We want to pro­tect the house, but it’s not like Pitts­burgh or Cincin­nati or any­thing. We­don’tplay each other enough­for all that.” Fans echoed the play­ers. “The Ravens-Red­skins ri­valry, for me, is im­por­tant purely in terms of brag­ging rights,” said Aditya Dilip, a Ravens fan who lives in An­napo­lis. “I don’t nec­es­sar­ily hate the team as much as Pitts­burgh or New Eng­land. But we only play once in four years, and the fact that our neigh­bors and co-work­ers all sup­port one or the other makes for an in­ter­est­ing week be­fore and week af­ter.”

The Ravens have won three of five against the Red­skins, in­clud­ing the first game be­tween the teams Oct. 26, 1997.

But their last meet­ing, a 31-28 Red­skins vic­tory Dec. 9, 2012, might have been the most mem­o­rable.

Haloti Ngata knocked Red­skins quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III out of the game when he fell on Grif­fin’s legs late in the fourth quar­ter. Cousins came on in re­lief and threw a touch­down pass with 29 sec­onds left, fol­lowed by a plunge into the end zone for the game-ty­ing 2-point con­ver­sion. The Red­skins won on a field goal in over­time.

The Ravens were in cri­sis, in the midst of los­ing four of their last five reg­u­lar-sea­son games. Coach John Harbaugh fired of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Cam Cameron the day af­ter the loss in Wash­ing­ton.

Of course, eight weeks later, the Ravens won the Su­per Bowl.

That’s how the com­par­i­son goes when you look at what the two fran­chises have done in the 21 years the Ravens have played in Bal­ti­more.

Red­skins owner Daniel Sny­der has lured big-name tal­ent to Wash­ing­ton with big free-agent con­tracts, but of­ten to lit­tle ef­fect on the field. The Red­skins have gone 142-181 in their years shar­ing a me­trop­o­lis with the Ravens and have never ad­vanced past the divi­sional round in five post­sea­son ap­pear­ances. Sny­der has run through eight coaches since 1999, in­clud­ing glitzy names such as Mike Shana­han and Steve Spurrier.

The Ravens, by con­trast, are re­garded in NFL cir­cles as a model of un­der­stated sta­bil­ity. They build through the draft, make coach­ing changes re­luc­tantly and have gone176-147 with two Su­per Bowl wins since ar­riv­ing in Bal­ti­more.

The un­flat­ter­ing com­par­i­son is fa­mil­iar to old-school Wash­ing­ton foot­ball fans who re­mem­ber the Bal­ti­more Colts beat­ing up on their sorry Red­skins in the 1960s.

“Ba­si­cally, there’s really no ri­valry be­tween the Ravens and the Red­skins, ex­cept ter­ri­to­rial brag­ging rights,” said Red­skins his­to­rian Mike Rich­man, au­thor of two books on the fran­chise. “And there was never really a ri­valry be­tween the Colts and Red­skins be­cause the Johnny Uni­tas-led Colts dom­i­nated for so many years.”

The Colts went 15-5 against their neigh­bors to the south, in­clud­ing a nine-game win­ning streak from 1960 un­til 1973. Uni­tas and Co. drubbed the Red­skins by scores of 45-17, 38-7 and 41-17 dur­ing that span.

That dy­namic slowly changed in the 1970s as the Red­skins be­came winners again un­der coach Ge­orge Allen. And it flipped com­pletely in the 1980s, when the Colts fled Bal­ti­more and the Red­skins, un­der Joe Gibbs, be­came one of the NFL’s dom­i­nant fran­chises.

Plenty of for­mer Colts fans shifted their loy­al­ties to Wash­ing­ton as the Red­skins won three Su­per Bowls from 1982 to 1991.

The fran­chise’s al­lure re­mains ap­par­ent in bor­der coun­ties such as Anne Arun­del and Howard. And yet with­out reg­u­lar, high-stakes meet­ings to stoke pas­sions, Ravens-Red­skins doesn’t carry much weight in pure foot­ball terms.

“It’s tough to call it a ri­valry,” Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco said. “I know that [we get asked] ob­vi­ously, just be­cause of the prox­im­ity of them to us and the peo­ple around here, but it’s really tough to feel it.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens line­backer C.J. Mosley cel­e­brates a play against the Red­skins in a 2015 pre­sea­son game at M&T Bank Sta­dium. In the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Ravens are 3-2 against Wash­ing­ton.

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