BALTIMORE (AP) — If the cornerstone of a great rivalry is proximity between the teams, the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens would be nasty adversaries.
Both teams play their home games in Maryland at stadiums located just 32 miles apart. While that may mean something to the fans in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, the players and coaches pretty much could not care less.
So, when the Redskins (2-2) and Ravens (3-1) meet Sunday, the motivation to win will have nothing to do with bragging rights.
“It’s just another game we have to win. They’re not even in our conference,” Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “I don’t really feel like this is a rivalry-type situation. Our rivals are the Patriots, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh.”
The same applies to the Redskins, who no doubt would derive far more pleasure from defeating Dallas or the Giants. Because Washington is in the NFC East and Baltimore resides in the AFC North, this will be only the sixth meeting between the teams in the regular season.
“There’s no bad blood between these two teams,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
Washington coach Jay Gruden and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh exchanged heated words a year ago during the preseason after a rough tackle by Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson, but any ill feelings between the two have vanished.
“That was a year ago. That’s ancient history,” Harbaugh said.
Gruden noted, “It was a misunderstanding. I have a ton of respect for him as a football coach and what he’s done, without a doubt. And, you know, that happened. It’s over.”
Instead of peering at the other sideline Sunday, Gruden will focus on his own team, which is coming off a 31-20 win over Cleveland and looking to sustain some momentum after an 0-2 start.
Playing so close to home does have its benefits: The Redskins will travel by bus from the same hotel they usually use when hosting games in Landover.
The Ravens, meanwhile, will be in bounce-back mode after losing to the Raiders 28-27 at home last week.
Some things to know about the second regular-season game between the Redskins and Ravens in Baltimore:
BACKFIELD SHUFFLE: The Ravens released running back Justin Forsett on Tuesday, leaving Terrance West as the starter and Javorius Allen as the backup.
West ran for a career-best 113 yards against the Raiders. Allen was limited to 13 yards in three carries.
Losing Forsett was a blow to his teammates, who appreciated his demeanor in the locker room and intensity on the field.
“He was a brother,” quarterback Joe Flacco said of Forsett, who gained 1,266 yards rushing for Baltimore in 2014.
TACKLING, DUMMIES: Gruden estimated the Redskins missed 11 tackles last week, which nearly offset the three second-half turnovers forced by the defense. Tackling is a major concern for the banged-up Washington defense that’s missing a few starters and has struggled against the run.
“We have to do better, without a doubt,” Gruden said. “As you get later in the season, if we’re continuing to give up these plays, it’ll be a tough year for us.”
PRESSURE NEEDED: The Ravens failed to get a sack against Oakland, and quarterback Derek Carr barely got his uniform dirty while throwing four touchdown passes.
Suggs, the Ravens’ career sacks leader, attributed the shortcoming to Oakland utilizing its backs and tight ends for pass coverage.
“We practiced for it all week, but we just didn’t capitalize on what we planned to do,” he said. “We’re over it, but we know we can’t let that happen again — especially if we want to be a good team in this division.”
BALANCING ACT: Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is averaging 293 yards passing a game, and that’s not necessarily something he wants to keep up.
Sure, he has tight end Jordan Reed, who’s been nearly unstoppable, along with deep threats DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. But the running game must be consistent to keep the Ravens’ defense honest.
Matt Jones had 117 yards rushing on 22 carries against Cleveland, numbers that benefit everyone.
“Matt Jones running the football helps,” Cousins said. “That does open up things and it keeps us in manageable down and distances.”
SLOW START: The Ravens have gone four games without scoring a first-quarter touchdown, getting only four field goals from reliable Justin Tucker.
“For one, it is frustrating to the fans,” receiver Steve Smith said. “People come in there and expect us to play well, and we have not played that way.”
The Redskins managed only two field goals in the first quarter through three games before scoring two early TDs against Cleveland.
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