Ravens notebook: McClain makes mark in win

BALTIMORE -- It was a knockout defensive debut for unheralded and undrafted Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker Jameel McClain, decking Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell for a safety in the first quarter.

With linebacker Terrell Suggs spilling the play toward him, McClain burst into the backfield for a sack during the Raiders' second pass attempt to stake the Ravens to a 2-0 lead in a 29-10 victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"It was just a good opportunity for me to rush in there," McClain said. "To get a lot of pressure, I came off the edge and basically came free. It was a good first experience on defense.

"The coaches had a plan to get me an opportunity, and it was good that it actually happened. I'm happy they believed in me to pick me up. I want to do whatever's right for the team."

McClain recorded two tackles, one for a loss and a quarterback hit. It was the eighth safety in franchise history and the first one since free safety Ed Reed had one in a 2006 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Undrafted out of Syracuse, McClain beat the odds to make the active roster with a strong training camp.

"I think our scouts did a great job of finding him, first of all," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We found out that he's a football player. He's a guy that's very versatile, he gets off blocks, he can make tackles, just a good defensive football player."

McClain is accustomed to emerging from the shadows, earning a scholarship to Syracuse after a tough upbringing in Philadelphia where he and several relatives lived at a Salvation Army facility for a year when they lost their home.

"That's the story of my life: being an underdog," McClain said. "At least you know how to fight. We have a tight family."

McClain was a Golden Gloves and Silver Gloves amateur boxer, learning the sweet science from boxing legend Joe Frazier before committing himself to football.

"I got robbed in the Silver Gloves," said McClain, who had a 6-1 record. "But I still get to hit people every day."

BIG NUMBER: Suggs celebrated his 26th birthday with a Las Vegas style party Friday night, but he wasn't too tired to register the 50th sack of his career.

Now, he's one shy of tying defensive end Michael McCrary to rank second in team history.

"It's a good thing, but I want to keep churning it," said Suggs, adding that he's determined to pursue a career track like Jason Taylor and Bruce Smith. "At the end of my career, we'll just see where I end up."

Suggs notched two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits.

Russell was under constant pressure as he was sacked four times, including one from linebacker Jarret Johnson and another from defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

"We knew with JaMarcus being a young quarterback we needed to get a lot of pressure on him so that we could get him off his game," Ngata said. "We did that for a little bit. He got back on in the second half, but we got to him again in the fourth quarter."

RICE ON A ROLL: Rookie running back Ray Rice had a career-best day, gaining 155 yards of total offense with a team-high 64 rushing yards on eight carries, a team-high three receptions for 37 yards and 54 kickoff return yards on two returns.

He had five first downs in the second quarter, finishing with six for the game. His elusiveness in the open field made Raiders linebackers lose their footing.

The second-round draft pick and former Rutgers star had a touchdown nullified due to a penalty, and gained 19 yards on an option pitch from quarterback Troy Smith.

"When your number is called, you want to make a play, but you don't want to force it," Rice said. "I made a few plays and went one-on-one with a couple of guys and made them miss. That's what you have to do as a player."

For the season, Rice has 15 receptions for 166 yards to rank second on the team behind wide receiver Derrick Mason.

"The new thing for me is catching it," Rice said. "Whatever I can do now to help my team, that's what I'm trying to do."

PENALIZED: The primary criticism Harbaugh offered in his post-game remarks were focused on the Ravens being penalized eight times for 52 yards, including a combined six from offensive linemen Chris Chester and Jared Gaither with each player negating a touchdown with a flag.

"In my case, the penalties were technical things I need to clean up and they caught me," Chester said. "I've got to keep working on it. Off the top of my head, I think that goes for the rest of the guys, too."

SO CLOSE: Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington squandered an opportunity to score a touchdown against his old team.

Acquired in a trade this spring from Oakland, Washington cut in front of Russell's pass attempt on the sideline to wide receiver Ashley Lelie at the Ravens' 10-yard line.

Instead of securing an easy interception with no one standing in his way for a potential touchdown return, the ball bounced off his chest.

"I'm going to have nightmares thinking about that one," Washington said. "That would have been a great ending. I could have put all that Raiders stuff behind me and, well, I already have. It would have been like eating that juicy steak."

ON THE SPOT: Free safety Jim Leonhard turned in a 46-yard punt return, averaging 15.8 yards per return.

"They kind of plug me in wherever we need somebody and luckily I'm making plays in different areas," Leonhard said. "I have to continue to do that for us to have success. I'm not the fastest guy.

"I like to make one cut and hit it. There was a lot of blocking and I had a lot of space. I was thinking, 'Just keep running to the corner. I saw that one guy at the last second."

McALISTER DEACTIVATED: Cornerback Chris McAlister was deactivated due to a nagging right knee injury, and Frank Walker started in his place and intercepted a pass.

McAlister wasn't available for comment after watching the game from the sideline in sweats.

It's unclear who will start next week against the Cleveland Browns.

"I don't know," Walker said. "It depends on how C-Mac's knee feels. If his knee feels better, he'll probably be the starter."

Walker threw the football into the stands to celebrate his interception, the sixth of his career.

"I did that because I play for the fans," Walker said. "I've got no use for the football. I'm playing okay, but it could be a whole lot better. I left a lot of [stuff] out there. Rex Ryan will let me know about it Monday and what I need to work on."

QUICK HITS: Reed's playing time wasn't as extensive as usual, but he did record five tackles and broke up one pass. He has been dealing with a nerve impingement of his neck and shoulder as well as a hamstring injury. "The last couple of weeks I have been feeling it a little bit more," Reed said of his neck ailment. "There has been more nagging injuries that have kept my mind off it a little bit, but you always think about your neck. It's always going to be there. I'm just trying to be smart and not be too aggressive with making tackles" ... The Ravens deactivated quarterback Todd Bouman, return specialist Yamon Figurs (left knee contusion), cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery), strong safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion), offensive tackle Adam Terry (arthroscopic knee surgery), wide receiver Marcus Smith and defensive tackle Lamar Divens. ... Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo sprained his ankle and didn't return in the lone new injury the Ravens reported. ... Demetrius Williams' 70-yard touchdown catch is the second-longest of his career. He caught a 77-yarder against the Cleveland Browns as a rookie. ... Running back Willis McGahee moved into fourth place on the team's all-time rushing chart, gaining 58 yards and a touchdown to move up to 1,558 yards and 10 touchdowns for his career. He moved past Bam Morris (1,511 yards), still ranking behind Jamal Lewis (7,801), Priest Holmes (2,102) and Chester Taylor (1,599). ... The Ravens' defense held the Raiders to 47 rushing yards, extending their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 26 games.

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


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