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OWINGS MILLS — David Pittman knew it was going to happen, so he braced himself for treatment reserved for all unproven cornerbacks in the form of a high-profile pop quiz. Probably even his family back in Gramercy, La., was aware it was coming.
So, it was hardly a surprise during his first NFL start Saturday night when the Baltimore Ravens’ second-year defensive back immediately saw Washington Redskins quarterback Todd Collins lob a bomb over his head to Pro Bowl wide receiver Santana Moss.
Pittman had surrendered a significant cushion to Moss at the snap, but managed to match the speedy wideout’s pace. However, he forgot to look back for the football and allowed a 40-yard strike on the Ravens’ first defensive snap of a weather-halted 13-7 loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field.
That completion down to the Ravens’ 27-yard line led to a 45-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham and a 3-0 Redskins lead.
"If I was on that side of the ball, I would do the same thing to a guy that hasn’t really played a lot," said Pittman, a third-round draft pick last year from Northwestern State (La.) who was deactivated for every game during a disappointing rookie campaign. "As time goes on, that play will be an interception instead of just being in the receiver’s hip pocket. It will go a long way to make me a better player.
"I kind of expected it as a younger guy. I thought they would go after me, and you kind of expect that they’re going to test you. As time went on, the jitters went away and I got more and more comfortable and zoned into what I was trying to do."
Overall, Pittman and the Ravens found more reasons to be encouraged than dismayed at what amounted to a formal audition in place of injured starter Samari Rolle.
Although Pittman allowed two catches as he was specifically targeted four times, he seemed to settle down after the initial gaffe.
"I think ‘Pitt’ in his debut did a good job," Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister said. "I think he went out there and played as well as we expected him to and as well as he expected.
"They took shots at him all day and they only got one ball on him when he was in really good position. He could have made a play on it, but that just shows a lack of experience. That will come."
On the Redskins’ next drive, Collins went right after Pittman again. This time, though, Pittman kept up with Moss step for step and shadowed him away from the football for an incomplete pass. Moss lobbied the officials for a pass-interference call to no avail.
For Pittman, this represented a prime opportunity to prove himself to the coaching staff and scouting department, which criticized his work ethic and study habits last year as he struggled to adjust from the Division I-AA level to pro football’s highest level.
Plus, he got to measure his progress against accomplished receivers like Moss.
"If you don’t want to go up against the best, what’s the point of playing the game?" Pittman said. "When you play this position, it kind of comes with the territory. You’ve got to man up and take on the challenge."
Later, Collins connected over the middle to Antwaan Randle El for 19 yards to get back in scoring position in the final minute of the first half. Earlier, Pittman allowed a five-yard catch to Randle El.
"They went after [Pittman] early, but the young man responded," Billick said. "I was very pleased when they went after him early with the big bomb. They challenged him some more, and I thought he came out very well."
The Redskins tried to attack Pittman again in the end zone on 3rd-and-1 from the 8-yard line, but receiver Brandon Lloyd fell down and Collinsâ€™ pass sailed out of bounds. Earlier in the first half, Pittman covered Randle El twice on incomplete throws.
He also registered three tackles, including one for no gain in the red zone on a fumble recovery by Lloyd.
"I think I did pretty good," Pittman said. "I’ve got to go back and look at the film and see what the coaches want me to do. I got a lot of positive feedback.
"I think that’s the start of a positive beginning. I’m just going to get with the coaches, see what they talk about and see what the future holds."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.