Houshmandzadeh surprised to be involved

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a rare featured role in the Baltimore Ravens' offense qualified as much of a surprise to him as anyone. The seldom-utilized veteran wide receiver caught a 56-yard touchdown on the Ravens' second play from scrimmage during a 37-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium

The increased role wasn't something that Houshmandzadeh had anticipated.

"I didn't expect it, I didn't think it would happen," Houshmandzadeh said. "When it does, you have to be ready. You beat down on yourself a little bit and things like this kind of wake you up." It was the 600th reception of his career, and it came on a post pattern where he raced past safety Charles Godfrey to get into the end zone.

"I am surprised that I got it out of the box, but it's fun," said Houshmandzadeh, who led the Ravens with 79 receiving yards on two catches. "Anytime you can help the team, it's always fun. I forgot who was on that side with me, but I'm really just supposed to clear it out for them. I saw the ball and I had the easy part. It was just catch it and get it in." The former Pro Bowl wide receiver has had a complementary role all season, catching just 15 passes for 255 yards. Houshmandzadeh hadn't scored since his game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth game of the season. Much to his frustration with vocal complaints around the Ravens' training complex, Houshmandzadeh hasn't been heavily involved in the offense. Now, he seems resigned to his role.

"It doesn't really matter," Houshmandzadeh said when asked how it felt to play more. "I know the position I am in and it is what it is. You just have to make the most of every opportunity, period. You just make the most of it, and that's what I plan on doing." Houshmandzadeh caught Joe Flacco's pass in stride in the first quarter. "T.J. did a good job of getting ion top of guys with speed," Flacco said. "Without our offensive line on that play, it just doesn't happen because I was sitting in the pocket for a pretty long time waiting for things to develop downfield."

Much like Flacco on that play, Houshmandzadeh has been waiting, albeit not always patiently this season. "Some people would say I'm really not that calm," Houshmandzadeh said. "It just depends on the situation. I don't really let too many things bother me, at this point.

"It's just a sign of getting older because I was always one that was real fiery and always again the opponent. When I get to the sideline, I am always really calm. I don't know why." Houshmandzadeh wasn't aware that he had reached the 600-catch milestone until he as informed after the game. "I feel like I can play, to be honest with you, five more years easy," he said. "I didn't even know it was 600 catches until somebody told me. I had no idea. I guess it has been that type of year for me."

ROAD-FIELD ADVANTAGE: The Ravens took over Bank of America stadium on the field and in the stands. The Ravens traveled extremely well with nearly half the fans appearing to be wearing purple. They were loud, too, especially during key moments for the Ravens as well as the national anthem.

"When I came out for warmups, you could tell," Flacco said. "It was like a home game down in Carolina. I was actually hearing from some people when we were up in the hotel last night that the whole city's covered in purple and that there was a lot of Ravens fans, and they were right." Middle linebacker Ray Lewis praised the fans for their support.

" No disrespect to Carolina, but to have that many Ravens fans in the stands to show the true respect and love our fans have for us, to walk out there, was like a home game," Lewis said. "To look in the stands and see all those purple jerseys. It was the greatest respect you can ever ask for: For people to pile in and say we will follow you anywhere because we believe in you."

PASS RUSH IMPROVES: The Ravens recorded three sacks, tying the most they've had this season. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs applied a lot of heat, and leads the team with 7 ½ sacks after sacking Brian St. Pierre once. Defensive end Paul Kruger had the first sack of his career, and Jameel McClain posted the first for him this season. "The D-line got after it," McClain said. "With the blitz calls, we got a chance to get after them and get them to throw it on the quick." Harbaugh wasn't entirely satisfied, though.

"Three sacks are not enough," Harbaugh said. "We want more. We want more sacks. We want more hurries. We want more quarterback hits. We want more."

COULDN'T STOP HIM: The Ravens faltered against the run one week after shutting down Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner. They allowed Mike Goodson to rush for 120 yards on 22 carries, including a 45-yard cutback run where rookie nose guard Terrence Cody got chop-blocked.

"This guy is fast," Harbaugh said. "He's fast and he's big and he's elusive. We kind of recognized that from last week. "I'm kind of disappointed that he got back onto the field to get the yards that he got at the end. That's our fault, but he's a good player."

Goodson ran hard, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He also caught five passes for 31 yards. "He did a good job," Suggs said. "He had a good game. You can't take anything away from him. He's a professional football player just like the rest of us."

DROPS: Wide receiver Derrick Mason uncharacteristically dropped a pass. And wide receiver Anquan Boldin lost a fumble. "I let the ball get behind me and instead of catching the ball the way I should, I had to turn them the other way and I kind of lost track of it," said Mason, who shrugged off catching the 900th pass of his career. "I'm just trying to adjust my hands to certain passes and trying to do my best to catch the ball. That's a catch that with eight fingers, nine fingers, 10 fingers, I have to make. That's the way it is."

Mason is playing with a surgically-repaired right pinkie finger that's broken in two places.

"I always have to adjust how I catch the ball and it's more so now," Mason said. "I still trust my hands and I still to try to catch everything, but if the ball is coming at a certain angle I know that instead of catching it with my hands, I know because of my finger, I have to use my body a little bit."

FIRST CATCH: Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth caught his first pass since joining the Ravens. Sidelined for most of the season with a broken bone in his foot suffered during the preseason and suspended for all of last season, it was Stallworth's first reception in a regular-season game since the 2008 season with the Cleveland Browns. "It was good, it was routine," Stallworth said. "I'm expected to make those catches whenever the ball is thrown my way."

It was Stallworth's first catch since a 12-yarder on Dec. 28, 2008 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Stallworth acknowledged that it meant something to him, considering the circumstances.

"Yeah, it felt good just reflecting on where I've been the last couple years," Stallworth said. "It's part of what I do I'm paid to do that. I would have liked to have done a little more, but Joe was able to beat the defense and make some plays today."

BOTCHED HANDOFF: Flacco acknowledged that it was his fault on a botched handoff with running back Ray Rice that was fumbled.

Defensive end Tyler Brayton recovered the fumble in the second-quarter at the Panthers' 11-yard line.

The play was designed to be a reverse, but Flacco said he forgot what the call was.

"I went to hand it to Ray and I put it in his stomach and thought, ‘Why isn't he taking it?'" Flacco said. "And then I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that's why. So, it was all on me. I take full responsibility for that."

KICKOFF RETURNER DISCOVERED: The Ravens' faith in rookie kickoff returner David Reed has been justified. Reed returned the opening kickoff of the second half a career-high 84 yards to set up a field goal.

It was the longest return of his career for the fifth-round draft pick from the University of Utah.

"It was huge," Flacco said. "It would have been a lot bigger if we had scored a touchdown instead of getting three points out of it. That was a huge return by David. He's got a lot of speed back there and we know he can make some plays. It was good to see him make one."

Reed returned three kickoffs for 135 yards, averaging 45 yards per return.

And punt returner Lardarius Webb returned five punts for an 8.2 average with three fair catches. He had a difficult assignment with Jason Baker booming nine punts for a 46-yard average. "I thought we made some things happen," Webb said. "David's return was something to see."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens deactivated inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe for the second time this year. Ellerbe grew up in Hamlet, N.C. … The Ravens also scratched wide receiver Marcus Smith for the first time this year. The Ravens' other deactivations included safety Tom Zbikowski, who missed his fourth game in a row with a bruised right heel, defensive linemen Brandon McKinney, Lamar Divens and Arthur Jones, offensive guard Chris Chester (cellulitis) and rookie tight end Dennis Pitta.

… The Ravens' game captains were linebacker Prescott Burgess and safety Dawan Landry. … With Chester out for the first time this season, Tony Moll started at right guard and drew praise for his work. "We miss Chris," Flacco said. "I hope he's back home getting better right now, but Tony filled in great. We'll be excited to see Chris in a couple days and welcome him back and get him ready to go, but Tony did a great job filling in."

… The Panthers' scratches included wide receiver and third quarterback Armanti Edwards, quarterback Jimmy Clausen (concussion), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (concussion), injured running backs Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton, offensive guard Travelle Wharton, safety Marcus Hudson and defensive tackle Ed Johnson. … Called up from the practice squad, guard Bryan Mattison saw action on special teams.

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