McNair's mistake proves costly

BALTIMORE -- Steve McNair was extremely confident. His eyes lit up when he saw tight end Todd Heap breaking into the clear in the end zone, and all he had to do was deliver the football into Heap's waiting hands.

However, everything went awry as the Baltimore Ravens' veteran quarterback hesitated a split-second too long and uncorked a critical interception during a 15-6 loss Saturday to the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.

McNair never saw safety Antoine Bethea until it was too late with the defensive back picking him off at the 1-yard line in the second quarter. The turnover, which was the first of McNair's two intereceptions, was extremely deflating to the Ravens' cause.

"It's a play we knew that would work," McNair said. "On the squeeze play, Todd actually beat his man. Once he went to the left, I just reacted and didn't see the guy on the backside. We didn't make the play and that's something that you can't do regardless of them making good plays or not.

"You can't turn the ball over as many times as we did in the playoffs and expect to win, especially against a good, solid team like Indianapolis. .. It's very heartbreaking. Do I feel badly? Of course, I do. I feel badly at the loss. I feel badly at the way I played. I feel bad that we didn't execute offensively and didn't take advantage of what they gave us."

Trailing 6-3 and threatening to take the lead in the second quarter on a 3rd-and-goal at the Colts' 4-yard line, the lost red-zone opportunity squandered the Ravens' best chance to score a touchdown.

Heap is the Ravens' best goal-line option in most cases because of his size, speed, leaping ability and crisp routes. However, defenses are well aware of the team's tendency to look his way in red-zone situations.

"Really good play by the safety," Heap said. "I was trying to find a hole in front of the linebackers. We had all of our guys offensively spread out across the field pretty good. The guy made a good play. He kind of came off the guy he was supposed to be covering and made a good play."

The Colts went on to score on an 51-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal, his third of the game, as Baltimore fell behind 9-3 in what wound up being the decisive score since all the Ravens' offense wound up producing was two Matt Stover field goals.

"You just can't do it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of McNair's interception. "Obviously, very disappointing at that point in the game to not come away with the touchdown and change the temperament of the game and we didn't."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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