Notebook: Zbikowski on the prowl

OWINGS MILLS -- Tom Zbikowski needed a little bit of guile and some assistance to partially block a punt Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams in the first quarter. The Baltimore Ravens' rookie safety got his fingertips on a Donnie Jones punt with the deflection ricocheting 11 yards forward to the Rams' 20-yard line to set up a 22-yard Matt Stover field goal.

"I was setting a pick on the center and expected the personal protector to come to me," said Zbikowski, who also credited special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. "He didn't, so I had a free shot. I just got my hands high and worked the technique I've practiced and made the play."

It wasn't the lone big play delivered by the third-round draft pick from Notre Dame.

Competing with veteran Jim Leonhard and fellow rookie Haruki Nakamura for playing time with Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed sidelined with a left shoulder injury, Zbikowski intercepted his first NFL pass in the fourth quarter.

He jumped a Bruce Gradkowski pass intended for tight end Joe Klopfenstein, returning it 21 yards into Rams territory.

"That first series, I should have jumped a route that I didn't that they completed," Zbikowski said. "So, I went back o n the sidelines and made some adjustments.

"The coaches told me to read the field and see everything develop and that is kind of what happened on that interception. I was dropping the other way and saw the tight end hooking up and I broke on him."

Zbikowski was overshadowed by Nakamura during training camp and Leonhard has started three games with Reed out and not cleared for contact yet.

By far, this was Zbikowski's top performance this month.

"Every play, you learn something," he said. "As a rookie, it's definitely a big step up knowledge-wise in seeing something happen and being able to react to make plays."

UNDER SIEGE: Playing without cornerback Chris McAlister and Reed, the secondary had a rough night as the Rams' quarterbacks piled up 298 passing yards and two touchdown passes.

Marc Bulger completed 18 of 25 passes for 182 yards and two scores for a 119.1 quarterback rating. The Rams finished with 411 yards of total offense.

"I didn't see a lot of missed assignments," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I saw some plays we didn't make. That's not missed assignments. That's more of a coverage reaction."

Frank Walker allowed a touchdown pass and was flagged for pass interference that set up the Rams' second touchdown.

During one drive in the second quarter that led to a touchdown pass to Keenan Burton, Bulger completed three consecutive passes totaling 40 yards gained against cornerback Corey Ivy.

In the third quarter, Brock Berlin had a 40-yard completion to Burton behind Ivy that set up former University of Maryland running back Lance Ball's five-yard touchdown run. Ivy was credited with six tackles.

"Picking on Corey?" Harbaugh said. "Corey made a couple of nice plays. I don't think they were picking on anybody. They were running their offense."

PRESEASON DEBUTS: Offensive tackle Adam Terry played for the first time this preseason, starting at right tackle.

His surgically-repaired left ankle that he sprained early in training camp held up well.

"It was a stepping stone for me to get back on the field, and, overall, I think the blocking went well," he said. "There were aspects of the game I was doing well at the beginning of camp and I think there was progress. The main thing is getting those reps back."

Daniel Wilcox, who underwent offseason toe surgery and was activated last week from the physically unable to perform list, saw his first game action of the month.

"It felt good, but I'm still not where I want to be and where it needs to be," Wilcox said. "It responded well, better than I thought it would. No setbacks."

In former linebacker Edgar Jones' first game since being switched to tight end, he caught two passes for 12 yards. It was the first time he had played tight end since high school.

"It was different, man, but I got used to it," Jones said. "I thought I did20all right, but I need to work on the blocking schemes."

QUIET NIGHT: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs recorded two tackles with no quarterback pressures during his first game since reporting and signing his $8.47 million franchise tender. He began practicing a week ago after skipping training camp.

Suggs played 29 snaps, tackling running back Antonio Pittman following a two-yard gain and tight end Randy McMichael after a 10-yard reception.

"It felt really good to run around with my boys and play football," he said. "I don't think I played too badly. I'm still a little rusty and I have to knock the dust off. Hopefully, by Sept. 7, all the rust will be gone."

FULL-HOUSE BACKFIELD: Employing their heavy-duty backfield, the Ravens lined up 260-pound fullback Le'Ron McClain behind four-time Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal, a 255-pound lead blocker, several times.

It was an effective strategy as McClain gained a team-high 41 yards on six carries. He outrushed rookie Ray Rice, who totaled 20 yards on five carries.

INJURY REPORT: Rookie wide receiver Marcus Smith separated his shoulder. Linebacker Tavares Gooden suffered a concussion. And cornerback Fabian Washington left the game with a shoulder injury.

QUICK HIT: Return specialist Yamon Figurs, who has had an impressive preseason, returned his first kickoff 37 yards up the middle.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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