Opportunistic Webb taking his cue from Reed
– Lardarius Webb darted in front of Houston Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson, reading the eyes of rookie quarterback T.J. Yates to intercept an errant pass.
The turnover led directly to a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin during the Baltimore Ravens' 20-13 AFC divisional round playoff victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. And the Ravens' top cornerback would pick off Yates once more in the fourth quarter on a throw intended over the deep middle to wide receiver Kevin Walter.
Webb tied a Ravens playoff record with two interceptions, sharing the mark with free safety Ed Reed and cornerback Duane Starks. And Webb accomplished the feat through the continued guidance of Reed, receiving a bit of tough love from his mentor over the past few games.
"He's an awesome player," Reed said. "I've actually been very hard on him the last couple of weeks because I know how good he wants to be, and I know what he can accomplish. For him to come out and make the plays that he did was awesome." In the locker room after the game, Webb joked that Reed occasionally angers him with his constructive criticism to the point where he wants to tell him to leave him alone. However, Webb actually appreciates the advice from the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It was Reed who Webb wanted to be like when he was a safety in college at Nicholls State in Louisiana.
Now, Webb and Reed are colleagues on the NFL's fourth-ranked pass defense with Webb leading the defense with five interceptions during the regular season.
Reed intercepted a pass from Yates in the fourth quarter and joked that Webb let him borrow his hands Sunday.
"Give them to him?" Webb said. "He can have them. He made the big play at the end. I just seen him drop two picks, and I'd never seen it. I gave him my hands, mine were stickier, so he came in and made a pick. I said, ‘Give me my hands back because I'm going to have to get me one.' "It's a privilege to be his teammate. The dude is amazing, man. He's taught me so much about this game and life. Every time you bring up Ed Reed, I'm going to tell you how I feel because he's helped me out so much."
Webb didn't allow a touchdown pass this season and was ranked as one of best cornerbacks statistically, according to Pro Football Focus. His understanding of the game has improved markedly, getting to the point where he's able to bait quarterbacks into mistakes. That was the case Sunday against Yates.
"He made his throws a little light, or he didn't get to read his throws, so it made the interceptions easy on me," Webb said. "Hey, if you study film, you can cover anybody. But we were just playing ball out there, communicating and everybody knew exactly what we were doing. "The first one, Andre just ran an out route, a nonchalant out route, and I jumped it. The second one, I was inside, and he threw the ball inside. I just caught the ball."
Webb ranked sixth on the defense with 68 tackles and led the defense with 20 pass deflections, also forcing one fumble and recording one sack. All of his numbers were career-highs, including returning 30 punts for 301 yards for a 10.0 average per return.
"I just think Lardarius just gets better all the time," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Like every player, there are ups and downs, and they get attacked and things like that. He's becoming a really solid, fundamentally sound corner to go with his great talent. And that's a great combination.
"To me, that's what makes for a potentially great football player. He came up with two huge plays and a lot of other really solid plays in the game. Our pass coverage was excellent. It wasn't perfect. There were things out there that got open at times, but it was really excellent." Drafted in the third round three years ago, Webb returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown against the New York Jets.
Doubling as a punt returner, Webb returned one 68 yards for a score against the Cleveland Browns. "Lardarius Webb can be better," Webb said. "I'm telling you this: Lardarius Webb can be way better. I'd hate for ya'll to see that Webb, but I'm trying to get there, man. It's still a work in progress. That Webb's going to have to come out soon.".
Ravens notebook: Reed critical of Flacco, offensive line
In remarks that might embolden the growing chorus of critics of the Baltimore Ravens' offense, Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed took aim at quarterback Joe Flacco, the offensive line and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. During the Ravens' 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, Baltimore scored only three points after the first quarter. And the Ravens converted only 4 of 16 third downs, generating 227 yards of total offense as Flacco threw a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions while enduring a pounding as he was sacked five times. "I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense," Reed said Monday during a Sirius NFL radio interview. "They had a lot of guys in the box on him. And, I mean, they were getting to him. I think a couple times he needed to get rid of the ball. I don't know how much of the play calling, he could have made audibles or anything like that, checks or whatnot, man, but it just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense, you know, of times past. You know, it was just kind of like they was telling him to do, throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys. And he can't play like that. "You know, one particular play that sticks out to me is when Ray Rice came out of the backfield, he got pushed down and [Flacco] still threw him the ball and you got one-on-one with Torrey Smith on the outside. But it's hearsay for me. I can say that sitting on the sidelines, you know, or sitting in the stands. You just never know what somebody else is seeing."
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis looked genuinely confused on the sideline when the Ravens continued to throw passes late in the game rather than run the football.
Offensive tackle Michael Oher and offensive guard Marshal Yanda were savaged by rookie defensive end J.J. Watt and rookie outside linebacker Brooks Reed as they combined for 20 tackles and five sacks.
The Ravens seemed to have trouble adjusting to the Texans' second-ranked defense as Wade Phillips' schemes confounded Flacco and Cameron. "Offensive line gotta block better," Reed said. "You know, they gotta communicate better, gotta pick up blocks, Joe's gotta get the ball out of his hand. We gotta do a good job of using our weapons. I think Ricky Williams should have had the ball a little bit more yesterday. You know, I mean, Ray Rice was running it, too, but you gotta be able to mix those guys in back and forth.
"It's a lot of things that we all need to correct going into New England because they do such a great job of making adjustments, you know, in-game adjustments. It's not just coming up with a scheme and playing the game. You gotta be able to make adjustments while the game is in the flow."
ONE-TIME PATRIOT PROSPECT:
Prior to being drafted in the second round by the Ravens last April, rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith believed there was a good chance the Patriots might draft him. That's because he conducted a private workout for the Patriots at the University of Maryland campus and did a formal interview with New England at the NFL scouting combine.
"I pretty much did everything you could do with New England as far as the draft process goes," Smith said. "I met with them at the combine, did a private workout, and I saw them around a lot. They have a great coaching staff, and you can see with the way their track record has been they know how to win."
Ultimately, the Patriots drafted University of Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling in the second round with the 33rd overall selection and Cal running back Shane Vereen with the 56th overall pick.
Smith caught 50 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns, breaking a Ravens rookie record for scoring.
Heading into the AFC championship game Sunday against the Houston Texans, Smith is more than content with how things worked out.
"The biggest thing I know about New England is my brother always picks them in Madden," Smith said. "They pretty much always have the best offense for some years in that game. I play with the Ravens all the time now."
Smith dropped a long pass from Flacco during the Ravens' win over the Texans. Drops have been an issue for Smith throughout the season, but not as much lately.
"I just did not track it all the way through," Smith said. "It drifted on me a little further outside than I anticipated. I was trying to catch that thing and roll down the sideline. I had a little more room. If I had a chance to do it again, I definitely would make that play. That is my play."
Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is a candidate for the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That will be awarded Feb. 4, the night before the Super Bowl.
Already named Pro Football Weekly NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Suggs was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in the annual NFL 101 awards Tuesday.
Minnesota Vikigns defensive end Jared Allen was named NFL 101 NFC Defensive Player of the Year. "It definitely would be an honor, but I am in it for the overall No. 1 goal," Suggs said late in the regular season. "At the end of the year, we'll see where we all land. To add that along with some hardware, I think that'd be great. But if you ask me between the two, I would rather take the hardware."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh praised reserve cornerback Danny Gorrer, who excelled on special teams Sunday. "To see guys like Danny step up, and even other younger guys and some of our veterans, Haruki Nakamura made a big play across the middle, we have to play great special teams," Harbaugh said. "That's got to be a big part of our formula. So, if we're going to get to where we want to get in the next couple weeks, that has got to be a part of it. We're off to a good start, but we're playing an excellent special teams group this next week. They've got great returners. They're unbelievably well-coached. They've got a real diverse scheme. So, it's going to be a big challenge."
Journeyman tight end Kris Wilson caught his first pass of the season Sunday, scoring a touchdown on a one-yard toss from Flacco.
"It's funny, you've got guys, and these guys are talented guys sometimes, and you don't hear much about them," Harbaugh said.
"Kris Wilson is a football player. He's a vet. He's a pro. He doesn't need a lot of reps in practice, and he comes in and executes that play perfectly. That was a great catch. Joe kind of got bounced around a little bit. So, yeah, it's very rewarding."
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