Reed in running for defensive honor

BALTIMORE -- Ed Reed couldn't salvage the Baltimore Ravens' season with another terrific interception return, but may have cemented his candidacy for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Reed's 41-yard return of Miami Dolphins quarterback Sage Rosenfels' errant pass in the Ravens' 30-23 win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium broke an NFL record with 358 interception return yards for the season. His return following his ninth interception surpasses the 1961 mark established by former San Diego Chargers defensive back Charlie McNeil.
"Defensive MVP in my opinion," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Reed, "but I don't get a vote."

The interception also makes the third-year safety the Ravens' all-time leader in interceptions with 21, eclipsing linebacker Ray Lewis, his mentor, and defensive backs Rod Woodson and Duane Starks.

Reed downplayed the significance of his accomplishments.

"It's just another record," said Reed, a repeat Pro Bowl selection. "It's going to be up there for however long it'll be up there, until someone breaks it. Hopefully, it will be me."

Reed read Rosenfels' eyes as he stared down his primary read: receiver Bryan Gilmore.
Then, Reed rambled to the Dolphins' 2 to set up Jamal Lewis' touchdown run for a 27-7 lead.

"I mean, he threw me the football," Reed said. "I have to follow my blockers to get into the end zone. They'll hound me about that later."

The Ravens victimized Rosenfels, exploiting his lack of experience for three interceptions.

Reed set an NFL record for longest interception return with a 106-yard touchdown to seal a win over the Cleveland Browns earlier this season.

As for Billick's endorsement for league-wide honors, Reed said: "Just being mentioned for it is blessing enough. If I get it, I get it. I hope I do, but it really doesn't matter. All that really matters is where the Ravens end up as a team."

NO DANCER: Backup defensive end Jarret Johnson had one of the game's most extraordinary plays in the third quarter.

He tipped a Rosenfels pass with his left hand, secured the ball and rumbled six yards into the end zone. Thankfully, he skipped a celebration dance.

"I can't dance," Johnson said.

A fourth-round pick last season out of Alabama, Johnson's last touchdown came as a high school fullback in rural Florida.

"It really didn't hit me until everyone started to run up to me, but it's been a dream of mine, to score a touchdown," Johnson said. "It was kind of cool."

TRAINING ROOM: Linebacker Ray Lewis missed the game after re-breaking his wrist last week and incurring ligament damage. T.J. Slaughter started in his place and recorded three tackles.

"We all pick it up if someone goes down," Reed said. "We always win as a team regardless of what individuals are in."

Running back Chester Taylor left the game with a hyperextended neck and didn't return, and was relieved by Jamel White. Offensive guard Bennie Anderson departed with a right shoulder contusion, and was replaced by rookie Brian Rimpf. Wide receiver Clarence Moore strained his right shoulder.

The Dolphins lost defensive end Jason Taylor (shoulder) and running back Sammy Morris (knee).

BURNED: Cornerback Gary Baxter was torched for a 76-yard touchdown pass on the game's first play from scrimmage by Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers.

"I bit on a double move," Baxter said. "I was being aggressive and I will never stop being aggressive. I promised my teammates I would make up for that play and I did."
Baxter registered six tackles and two pass deflections.

INTRODUCED AS ONE: After a week where cornerback Chris McAlister alleged locker room strife, Billick decreed that the Ravens be introduced as a team.

Traditionally, the Ravens have individual player introductions highlighted by Ray Lewis' demonstrative dancing.

"It was just coach Billick making a decision really," Reed said. "It doesn't really matter to us who we introduce. We're a team regardless of who's coming out."
TESTY: The Ravens finished the season with the lowest offensive ranking (31st) in franchise history.

Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh is expected to be fired, according to several reports.

When the Cavanaugh topic was broached, Billick quickly left the podium: "Obviously, if you're not interested in talking about this game, my part of the news conference is over."

INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated Lewis, nickel back Deion Sanders (foot), Heap (sprained ankle), linebacker Bart Scott (knee), offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo (triceps), offensive tackle Tony Pashos and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Dinkins started for Heap, with Casey Rabach starting at left guard for Mulitalo and Mike Flynn playing center.

QUICK HITS: Fans donated $51,475 to the Red Cross to benefit those affected by the tsunamis in South Asia with the Ravens donating $25,000 for a total of $76,475. ... Tight end Daniel Wilcox set career highs with six catches for 72 yards. "You've got to get your tight ends in the game," Wilcox said. "We've got big guys who catch the rock and block." ... Kicker Matt Stover moved into 10th place on the NFL's all-time scoring list. His 12 points boosted his career total to 1,481 points.
 

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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