The Ravens have done well all season making quarterbacks pay for their mistakes, but they'll have a tough time doing that this weekend against Washington's Jason Campbell.
He rarely makes them.
After 12 games, Campbell has only thrown four interceptions in 378 attempts, ranking second in the NFL with an interception percentage of 1.1. In fact, until he tossed his first pick of the year against the Pittsburgh Steelers Nov. 3, the four-year veteran had passed safely 271 consecutive times to set a franchise record.
"He's a very consistent quarterback, and we've seen that over time," said safety Ed Reed
. "He's doing exactly what the coach is wanting him to do. So you've just go play your game and know that he's not a mistake-type of quarterback. He's putting it down and making some plays with his people."
The man behind Campbell's development is longtime NFL quarterback and first-time head coach Jim Zorn. Since he ended a stellar playing career, most notably with the Seattle Seahawks, Zorn worked his way from college assistant to 11 years in the professional ranks before taking a West Coast-style of offense to the Redskins.
That system is familiar to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh spent 10 years as an assistant under Philadelphia's Andy Reid, who, like Zorn, is a disciple of Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.
"I think one of the things about the West Coast offense, when you go back to Mike Holmgren, is not throwing interceptions," Harbaugh said. "You see it in Philly, you see it now in Washington, that's something that's been a big staple of that offense. [Campbell has] adapted really well to that, and he's done a great job."
But, Washington's West Coast has also undergone criticism for a lack of big plays.
Through the past four games, Campbell has not completed a pass over 29 yards, and many of those yards are created after the catch from slippery wideouts Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, playmaking tight end Chris Cooley, or tough running back Clinton Portis.
Moss, Randle El and Cooley combine for 166 receptions for 2,039 yards and eight touchdowns, while Portis adds 23 grabs for 187 yards.
"He's done a really good job of managing the ballgame," safety Jim Leonhard said of Campbell. "He's been able to make the throws he needs to make. They have really dangerous receivers out in the open field, so a lot of times, they'll just get the ball in their hands as quickly as possible and let them do the work."
Still, the potential for a long ball connection has been there. According to Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Moss and Randle El run quite a few deep routes. Campbell and the Redskins have not executed.
"He'll check it down in a minute to Portis or to Cooley, and they make a lot of their yards just doing that," Harbaugh explained. "They can hit you downfield, or they can drop it down to one of those playmakers underneath. That's where they're dangerous."
Whatever the passing play, Baltimore's defense has seen success against most aerial attacks.
The Ravens' second-ranked unit is first in the league when it comes to interceptions. Led by Reed, linebacker Ray Lewis
and cornerback Samari Rolle's three picks each, Baltimore boasts an NFL-best 20 interceptions on the year, five of which have been returned for touchdowns.
Over the last four weeks, the Ravens have snared 10 thefts, including a league-record 107-yard interceptions that Reed returned for a score.
So, when facing such a careful quarterback as Campbell, the Ravens won't look to do anything different and force the issue.
Baltimore can combat the Redskins' short and cautious passing attack by being physical at the line of scrimmage, but it must also guard against the downfield threat. Just because Campbell hasn't converted many of those risky throws doesn't mean he won't try at M&T Bank Stadium.
"You don't try to create anything," said Harbaugh. "You just play through your fundamental responsibility, do your job, and then make the plays that are presented to you."
Who knows? Maybe the rare gift of an interception will present itself on Sunday.