Billick makes painful handoff

OWINGS MILLS - It was a painful handoff for Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick. Despite the grandstanding of cornerback Chris McAlister in Sunday's 26-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Billick awarded him a game ball.

McAlister had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown, but was vehemently scolded by Billick and secondary coach Donnie Henderson for his showboating.

The Ravens' franchise player pointed the football at the Cardinals during his 83-yard score before coasting backwards into the end zone.

"Defensively, this is like pouring gasoline on a fire," Billick said of rewarding McAlister. "It pains me to do so, but, certainly, he deserves it. Chris had a great game and, hopefully, he can learn from some of the other things that went with it."

McAlister, 26, has drawn controversy to himself this fall with a driving under the influence charge in August. He was benched for the San Diego game for reportedly breaking curfew and missing a team meeting.

The interceptions marked his first since Week 4 from last season. "It's been a long time," McAlister said. "I've personally gone through a lot. Unfortunately, mine was on TV and I had to deal with it everywhere I went.

"The celebration was probably a little from being bottled up the last couple of weeks. I've got it out of my system now."

FAMILIAR OPPONENT: The Cincinnati Bengals (1-4), the Ravens' next opponent, continue to occupy the AFC North basement. Yet, Billick sees a progression under former Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

Lewis was the architect of Baltimore's record-setting Super Bowl defense. The Bengals rank eighth overall in total defense and have narrow losses to Oakland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. "There is a different feel in Cincinnati," Billick said. "I think you can attribute that directly to Marvin. You know that they will come ready to play."

LINE SHUFFLE: Offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo sprained his left ankle during Sunday's game. Trainer Bill Tessendorf said Mulitalo is day-to-day. Mulitalo missed the San Diego game because of a sprained right ankle and a sprained knee. Running back Jamal Lewis' shoulder was cleared by X-rays Sunday.

SMITH'S SITUATION: Until the Ravens determine rookie running back Musa Smith's capabilities on special teams, he will likely remain inactive on game days. The third-round draft pick's knee has recovered from arthroscopic surgery, but he still doesn't have a role.

"It's a lot to carry a third back just so you can get him four or five carries maybe at the end of the game," Billick said. "He has some special-teams possibilities. We liked what we saw before he got hurt."

QUOTABLE: Billick on the 24,193 paid attendance Sunday: "I'm not sure that we didn't outnumber them. I felt like I was at my old high school because everybody on our side had the purple on."

QUICK HITS: Tight end Terry Jones got the offensive game ball for his blocking in a 213-yard rushing game. His 17-yard catch was the team's longest reception. Kicker Matt Stover (four field goals) was singled out for special teams. …Today marks the NFL trading deadline.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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