The preseason clock ticked to zero, and Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Jon Jansen were among players who quickly jogged off of FedExField and into the locker room.
They were eager to put the 2006 preseason behind them and focus on the game that matters: Sept. 11, against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday Night Football at FedExField.
The Redskins closed out a winless, 0-4 preseason with a 17-10 loss to their I-95 neighbors, the Baltimore Ravens, on Thursday night.
Starters for both teams played the first quarter--and that's it. The rest of the preseason game was played by backups and roster hopefuls.
It was not a stellar preseason for the Redskins, who were outscored 104-27 in four games.
The performance of a team with impressive talent and playoff aspirations has raised questions about how coaches have approached the preseason.
Head coach Joe Gibbs has said he is disappointed in his team's preseason showing. But he also called the Sept. 11 season opener among the "biggest games" of his career--perhaps a suggestion of where his true priorities lie.
"We didn't want preseason to go that way," Gibbs said in his post-game comments. "We disappointed our fans. That's not the way we wanted to play."
The Redskins held out eight prospective opening day starters, to avoid re-aggravating injuries: defensive linemen Phillip Daniels (back), Demetric Evans (tooth), Renaldo Wynn (ankle) and Cornelius Griffin (knee), offensive linemen Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas, wide receivers Santana Moss (knee soreness), running back Clinton Portis (shoulder), cornerback Shawn Springs (abdomen) and linebacker Robert McCune (hamstring).
Asked if he was relieved that preseason was over, Gibbs replied: "Yes, certainly. As a coach, you hold three guys out because they were sore in practice. Earlier in preseason, you played some guys and a couple of them got nicked in there. The whole time, you're kind of walking on egg shells.
"But everyone else is doing the same thing. People beat us. Teams beat us. I give thumbs up to Baltimore."
The Redskins fell behind the Ravens 17-3 in Thursday night's game before mounting a comeback in the final minutes. In what amounted to the Redskins' final offensive drive of the preseason, wide receiver Mike Espy caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Todd Collins to pull the Redskins to within 17-10.
Espy and the Redskins' young players, facing a roster cut-down on Saturday, made the best of their last opportunity to impress coaches. Wide receivers Richard Smith, Espy and Steven Harris each caught passes on the drive. Running back A.J. Harris had a 15-yard run and Nehemiah Broughton had an 11-yard reception.
The Redskins' offense seemed sluggish early on, but quarterback Mark Brunell was able to complete passes to wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and David Patten. Brunell completed 2-of-4 passes for 12 yards, but his last pass to tight end Chris Cooley was dropped. That incompletion ended a drive that had some promise. Running back Ladell Betts had five carries for 18 yards on the drive.
Midway through the first quarter, the Ravens struck first, as quarterback Steve McNair led the Ravens on a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive. McNair connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mark Clayton, who had a step on cornerback Carlos Rogers. Clayton caught the ball just and hung on despite a hard hit from safety Adam Archuleta.
Frustrating to Redskins coaches, the Ravens' scoring drive was extended after the Redskins were flagged for 12 players on the field during a field goal attempt by Matt Stover. The field goal attempt, incidentally, was wide right.
In the second quarter, Jason Campbell took over at quarterback. He completed his first pass of the evening, a 5-yarder to fullback Mike Sellers in the flat, but his opening drive stalled when running back Rock Cartwright was stopped short on a 4th-and-1 call.
Later in the second quarter, running back T.J. Duckett made his FedExField debut as a Redskin. On his first carry, he had an impressive 9-yard run. On his next carry, he picked up a first down with a three-yard run, drawing an ovation from the crowd.
Late in the first half, the Ravens scored again to build a 14-0 first-half lead. Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller connected on a 45-yard pass to wide reciever Romby Bryant, then found wide receiver Demetrius Williams for a 29-yard score.
Todd Collins came in to play quarterback in the third quarter. He quickly led the offense downfield, courtesy of a 54-yard pass to Harris. The drive stalled when Collins's pass to Broughton was just out of reach.
The Redskins settled for a 30-yard field goal by John Hall. It was Hall's first field goal attempt since the first week of preseason.
Hall had another field goal attempt at the close of the third quarter. Collins guided the Redskins' offense from Washington's 15-yard line into Ravens' territory, using running backs Broughton and A.J. Harris on the ground and through the air to gain yardage downfield. In the end, Hall's 42-yard attempt was wide left.
The Ravens extended their lead to 17-3 on a 42-yard field goal by kicker Aaron Elling.
Collins finished the game with respectable stats: 13-of-22 for 201 yards and one touchdown. Espy led the team in receptions for the second time this preseason, hauling in four passes for 24 yards and one touchdown.
On defense, rookie linebacker Rocky McIntosh had five tackles and rookie defensive tackle Kedric Golston had two tackles and a sack.
With preseason over, preparation starts in earnest for the regular season opener.
Players sound ready.
"We can't look at last year and think we can just go out there and just throw our helmets on the field and win games," Daniels said. "It's a new year. We are going to come in this year and start from scratch and that's what we plan on doing when Minnesota comes to town."
Added Collins: "We have been preparing for the Vikings all spring and training camp, so the plays we will run in that game will be familiar. I'm confident in the personnel and the attitude we have here. We will be able to push through any shortcomings we might have as a team."