Heap back involved in passing game

HOUSTON -- Todd Heap didn't care how it looked as he stumbled in the backfield on a delayed, disguised pass route. All the Baltimore Ravens' former Pro Bowl tight end cared about was the final result, not his dexterity.

Heap gamely bounced back up to his feet and burst free into the end zone to cradle in a one-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco during the fourth quarter of a 41-13 victory over the Houston Texans.

"That was a great feeling," Heap said after scoring his first touchdown in over a year. "At that point of the game, we needed it so that made it even more pretty. I don't think the play was quite like we wanted it to turn out, but we got it done and Joe stayed with me and we got to score.

"It was more just trying to get through the line of scrimmage. I don't care how it works, as long as it works, and it was good."

Flacco was initially alarmed when he saw his primary target fall to the ground, so he retreated to buy Heap enough time to get into his route and escape from the Texans' goal-line defense.

"He really was my only guy on the routes," Flacco said. "So, I came around and saw him slow down and was like, ‘oh no.' So, I started backing up, backing up, and trusting that he was going to come up. Then, he was wide open so it was pretty easy."

Heap caught a team-high five passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns, which is also a personal season-high outing. They represent his first scores since a Sept. 16, 2007 win over the New York Jets, which was the last time the two-time Pro Bowl selection had a big game with seven catches for 76 yards.

The first score felt good enough that Heap duplicated the feat again on a 14-yard spiral from backup quarterback Troy Smith.

"Todd ran a great route," Smith said. "All I had to do was get him the ball on time."

With wide receiver Derrick Mason, Flacco's favorite target, sidelined for most of the first half with a dislocated left shoulder only to return in the second half, Heap emerged as more of a focal point downfield

. "It definitely changes our personality, it changes the formations that we can run," Heap said. "We're used to having Derrick in the slot. When he's out of there, we lose a big part of our offense. Definitely, all of the other guys have got to step up when Derrick's down."

Until Sunday, Heap had been relegated mostly to pass-blocking for Flacco and clearing a path for a run-first offense. Although praised by the coaching staff for his roll-up-the-sleeves work, it has never been described as Heap's forte.

He didn't catch a pass for the second time this season in last week's 37-27 win over the Cleveland Browns, entering Sunday with 13 catches for 137 yards for the season.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has indicated several times when asked about Heap's reduced role, including days prior to this game, that he didn't care about Heap's statistics, only victories.

This time, Heap's rare contribution to the passing game coincided with a win.

"I couldn't tell you before the game whether Todd is going to catch one pass during the game or 10 passes," Flacco said. "Todd's a great receiver, and he's always going to be there for us. Whatever the game calls for, we're going to do it. Todd stepped up big."

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


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