Ravens' Reed keeps stealing games, passes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One week after Ed Reed stole a pass to seal another win for the Baltimore Ravens, the Pro Bowl safety victimized yet another football team with his instincts and speed.

With Baltimore trailing 14-0 on Sunday to the New York Jets, Reed intercepted Lamont Jordan's ill-conceived halfback option pass in the end zone and returned it 78 yards. A holding penalty on Will Demps nullified what could have been a 104-yard return for a touchdown.

The interception changed the complexion of the game as Baltimore grabbed the momentum immediately, scoring a touchdown and running off 17 unanswered points before winning it 20-17 in overtime.

In the final minute of last week's 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, Reed intercepted Jeff Garcia in the Ravens' end zone and sprinted 106 yards to establish an NFL record for longest interception return.

"That's what it's going to take in the second half down the stretch," Reed said. "Everyone has to step up. I think we got some momentum going." Jordan was trying to throw the football away, but didn't have nearly enough arm strength to elude Reed's grasp. It was a curious call by offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, especially in light of the dubious result.

"I don't want to hear that Paul Hackett called a bad play," Jordan said. "The bottom line is we ran the play in practice and I made all the right decisions,. Coach Hackett has all the confidence in me. I wanted to throw the ball away and just didn't get the job done. I didn't throw the ball far enough and that's it."

It was Reed's team-high fifth interception of the season and it broke retired safety Rod Woodson's team record for total interception return yardage with 587 ahead of Woodson's 380.

For the season, Reed has 288 interception return yards to surpass Woodson's total of 195 yards in 1999. For his career, Reed has 18 interceptions in 42 games.

When asked if he was surprised that Jordan threw it, Reed said: "No, I wasn't surprised. It looked like he was going to throw the ball away. I read it."

When asked if he was flattered that opponents are resorting to gadget plays against a defense that entered Sunday as the best scoring defense in the league (14.1 points allowed per game), Reed said: "We expect everything coming at us. If it's a lineman with the ball coming around the corner, I wouldn't be surprised."

TRAINING ROOM: Cornerback Chris McAlister left the game with a shoulder stinger and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam today.

With McAlister out and Deion Sanders already out with a strained left toe, the shorthanded secondary installed Corey Fuller and Ray Walls. Dime back Chad Williams and linebacker Bart Scott took on additional responsibilities.

Offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo broke his pinkie toe, but said he could have returned.

"It's not a big deal," said Mulitalo, whose injury got former starting center Mike Flynn into the game at guard.

Punter Dave Zastudil separated his shoulder and it's unclear how long he'll be out. Backup quarterback Kordell Stewart took his place and averaged 35.4 yards on five punts. He hadn't punted since his high school days in Louisiana. "Kordell Stewart is here for a reason," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That was not quite the reason I thought he was here for, but that's what this team is about."

RELIEVED: Rookie B.J. Sams has rescued the Ravens on several occasions this season, returning two punts for touchdowns.

On Sunday, he almost doomed them.

Sams' fumbled punt, with linebacker Kenyatta Wright breathing into his face mask while he tried to execute a fair catch, set up the Jets' initial touchdown in the second quarter.

"If we had lost, it would have been really hard to take," Sams said. "I had to put it in the past quick. The guys definitely picked me up. I was standing on the sidelines listening to everybody say, 'Shake it off." I did. I had a job to do." Although Sams returned five punts for a 6.4 average, he did improve on kickoffs. The undrafted rookie from McNeese State (La.) returned four kickoffs for 101 yards and a 25.3 average.

BLITZED: Former Ravens assistant Donnie Henderson was as aggressive as billed in his new job as the Jets' defensive coordinator.

Quarterback Kyle Boller was sacked three times as the offensive line struggled to pick up some of the unusual stunts and blitz packages that Henderson unveiled.

"Kyle showed a lot of poise," center Casey Rabach said. "He was getting knocked around early. We kind of expected them to blitz a lot. They're a good defense."

CONNECTION: Rookie wide receiver Clarence Moore, the team's sixth-round draft pick from Northern Arizona, caught two touchdown passes from Boller. His scores on near-identical patterns included an acrobatic 16-yard catch in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter to give Baltimore a 17-14 lead.

The 6-foot-6 Moore caught a team-high five passes for 45 yards.

"Everybody was excited, because we knew we had it in us," Moore said regarding the comeback. "We were just a play away every time. Nobody got down at any time during the game at all. I was excited. Everyone was trying to pump us up because we knew we still had a chance."

Boller said he's especially confident when he throws to Moore that no one except the gangly receiver will come down with the football.

INACTIVES: The Raven deactivated kickoff specialist Wade Richey, Sanders, linebacker Roderick Green, tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring), tackle Tony Pashos, tight end Todd Heap (ankle), defensive end Dwan Edwards and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

Richey was replaced by Matt Stover on kickoffs, and Stover performed commendably in addition to hitting the game-winning field goal in overtime. This development likely leaves Richey's roster spot in jeopardy particularly if either linebacker Peter Boulware or quarterback Anthony Wright are activated from the physically unable to perform list this week.

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS: The win over the Jets not only keeps Baltimore within two games of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. It also gives Baltimore a head-to-head tiebreaker for the playoffs at the end of the season over another AFC contender.

"Both of us are AFC teams, I'm starting to learn the importance of it," Moore said. "It's definitely a big game for us."

QUICK HITS: The Jets had success much like the Kansas City Chiefs did: by running directly at linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis was cut off on Curtis Martin's 9-yard touchdown run on a crisp isolation block by fullback Jerald Sowell. Martin finished with a game-high 119 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. .. Ravens fullback Alan Ricard was leveled by Jets linebacker Victor Hobson on an incomplete pass. It was easily the biggest hit of the game.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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