Five reasons for the outcome

1. The Baltimore Ravens' secondary responded with authority to those playful verbal taunts of former starting quarterback Jeff Blake from last year's practice sessions.

The defensive backs confounded the brash veteran they call "Steamin' Willie Beamon" with three interceptions to key a 26-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Baltimore (3-2) dominated Blake to achieve a winning mark and extend its edge in the AFC North to a game-and-a-half over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In particular, franchise player Chris McAlister was able to read the quarterback's body language and tendency to stare down his primary target: rookie standout Anquan Boldin. McAlister also added a heavy dose of mustard to his 82-yard touchdown return by waving the football with one hand toward Blake's general vicinity before coasting backward into the end zone. The cornerback was flagged for taunting and was scolded vehemently by Ravens coach Brian Billick.

Afterward, both Billick and McAlister and were smiling. Blake was not. He was sacked twice and limited to a 65.4 quarterback rating and 247 yards despite 36 attempts. Plus, the Ravens kept Boldin out of the end zone and limited Arizona to an 18-percent conversion rate on third downs (2-for-11).

2. Safety Ed Reed intercepted another Blake pass in the second half for his fourth of the season, his ninth in 21 NFL contests. Reed also scored the Ravens' first touchdown in the second quarter when he burst through the line to block Scott Player's punt. He never took his eye off the football, caught it cleanly on the bounce and maintained his balance to scoot up the sideline for a 22-yard touchdown that gave Baltimore a 16-7 advantage. This was Reed's third blocked punt of his career, his second for a touchdown.

3. NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis set a team record with his fourth consecutive 100-yard performance, rambling for a game-high 131 yards. Not only did the burly Lewis make up for a conservative, limited passing game, he also gave former Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson a free ride for several yards before being dragged down on a 52-yard jaunt.

Lewis received some quality assistance from Chester Taylor (10 carries, 45 yards). Taylor also led Baltimore with three catches for 25 yards.

4. The Ravens committed no turnovers, which helped the team overcome six penalties and an 0-for-4 batting average in the red zone. Arizona's turnover ratio fell to minus-14. The results aren't a mere coincidence.

5. Kicker Matt Stover kicked four field goals. He also filled in for kickoff specialist Wade Richey (groin injury) with one touchback and punted twice.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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