Ngata makes an impact

HOUSTON -- Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was stunned as the football floated toward his big hands in the end zone. Ngata couldn't believe the Houston Texans didn't run the ball in the red zone, but not so surprised that he didn't bound into the air.

Well, as high as an athletic 6-foot-4, 345-pound man can leap to deflect and intercept quarterback Sage Rosenfels' pass intended for tight end Owen Daniels in the first quarter of the Ravens' 41-13 victory Sunday at Reliant Stadium.

"It was real big, I was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time," Ngata said. "I was happy to make the play. They were driving he ball, and it killed their momentum.

"I thought they were running the whole time. I hit my inside gap, turned, moved, and tried to read the quarterback and put the pressure on. I was just trying to get in front of him and get the ball."

As noteworthy as the interception was, it wasn't necessarily Ngata's top contribution.

"That's the play everybody will talk about, but that wasn't his best play," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Ngata barreled into the backfield to harass Rosenfels into another interception thrown directly to middle linebacker Ray Lewis for his second pick of the game.

It looked like Rosenfels started looking out for Ngata after a while. The interior lineman had two quarterback hits and deflected two passes.

"We knew if we got pressure on him we would get some opportunities to get some picks," Ngata said. "When I got pretty close to get some picks, it was big."

As was Ngata clearing a path as a blocking tight end for one of running back Willis McGahee's two touchdown runs. Not to mention Ngata nearly blocked a punt when he drove the Texans' undersized long snapper back into the punter's territory.

Where does blocking rank on his list as compared to an interception or a quarterback pressure?

"I'm a defensive guy, it's priority number whatever down there," Ngata said. "I definitely love doing it. It's fun to do something different. It's great that they are trusting me to run behind."

GUTTY SHOWING: Wide receiver Derrick Mason landed awkwardly on his left shoulder when he leapt into the air in the first quarter, dislocating his shoulder.

Clearly in pain, Mason decided to return for the second half and caught three passes for 43 yards and a two-point conversion in a gritty performance.

"You've got to help the team," Mason said. "If I can run, I can help the team. This thing wasn't unbearable. I just had to go out there and be smart about it.

"As soon as I went up, I knew if I came down wrong there was a possibility that I was going to hurt myself. I'm just glad it's not broken."

With the help of a pain-killer, Mason made it through the game. It's unclear if he'll be able to play next week against the New York Giants. "That's incredibly painful," Harbaugh said "That means he's an incredibly courageous guy."

As soon as Mason finished conducting interviews and the locker room started to empty, he put his left arm in a sling.

"I can't tell you the degree of it," Mason said. "Not to say it didn't hurt, but when adrenaline is going, you kind of block some things out."

"It's going to feel bad once the pain medicine wears off. It's going to feel a lot worse than it does now."

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Rejuvenated after resting his sprained right ankle last week, McGahee carried the Ravens on his back.

He rushed 25 times for a season-high 112 yards and scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time since arriving in Baltimore last year.

"This is my best game of the year," McGahee said.

McGahee grinded it out, punishing the Texans' soft run defense with a series of hard-nosed runs.

One week after rookie Ray Rice stole the show with 154 rushing yards in a win over the Cleveland Browns, McGahee reasserted himself and got into a rhythm.

"I'm the kind of back that has to get going," McGahee said. "The last time I busted a long run on the first play was against Syracuse at the University of Miami.

"Once I get going, I got that hot hand and then we can do whatever. Coming in, coming out, that isn't me."

ROLLE RETURNS: Cornerback Samari Rolle intercepted a pass in his first game back since undergoing neck surgery.

The turnover felt good, but it didn't match the relief Rolle felt when his neck didn't hurt after tackling wide receiver Kevin Walter on the Texans' first play from scrimmage. It was his first action in seven games.

"I didn't have any hesitation," Rolle said. "I just hit him. Coach Harbaugh told me before the game there's going to come a point where I'll test it and I'll be all right. After that first hit, I didn't think about it."

Added Harbaugh: "We were more worried about the physical part of it, but he stepped up and smacked somebody right away. That's the kind of football player he is."

Rolle said his neck felt fine throughout the game, and afterward.

"I'm good, I do my exercises," Rolle said. "It's not bothering me at all."

Rolle wanted to return last week, but said that Harbaugh advised him to be careful.

He resisted the urge to rush back with Chris McAlister sidelined for the year with a knee injury.

"Chris was a major part of our defense," said Rolle, who intercepted his 30th career pass. "It's unfortunate we don't have him now. We all have to step up and replace him."

LONG DISTANCE: Rookie kicker Steve Hauschka booted a 54-yard field goal in the first half on his first NFL attempt, stepping in for veteran Matt Stover.

It was the first Baltimore field goal attempt by someone other than Stover since 2005 when Aaron Elling missed a 54-yarder at Cincinnati.

"Hauschka is obviously younger, he's got some leg strength so he was going to be the longer field-goal guy," Harbaugh said. "He didn't even kick the ball as well as we wanted to, but you know what you do? You kick it straight and it's got a chance to go in."

Added Hauschka: "I didn't hit it good, but I didn't hit it bad."

Later, Stover missed a 50-yard try wide left. He did tie the NFL record for most consecutive extra points with his 371st in a row.

SMITH SHOW: Backup Troy Smith got involved in the offense again in the double-quarterback package, throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Heap in the fourth quarter.

"It felt pretty good," Smith said. "Cam Cameron has told us that an opportunity would come, and Hue Jackson saw some things from the box. Things like that are going to happen if you battle through."

Smith almost caught a pass of his own in the first half on a trick play.

He took the snap, threw a backward pass to rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and then rolled out of the backfield behind a convoy of blockers. However, Flacco's pass was late and bounced in front of Smith's feet incomplete.

"Things like that are going to happen," said Smith, who ran the ball twice for six yards. "Joe was apologetic. I told him as long as he completes the passes that really matter, that's what's important. We'll get a chance to do something else."

INJURY REPORT: In addition to Mason's shoulder injury, offensive tackle Willie Anderson left the game with a sprained ankle and was replaced by Adam Terry.

Tight end Edgar Jones injured his hand, but returned. Wide receiver Terrance Copper left the game with a stinger, but returned.

QUICK HITS: One week after allowing Browns return specialist Joshua Cribbs to return a kickoff for a touchdown and gain 237 yards on returns, the Ravens' special teams improved markedly. They held Jacoby Jones to no yards on punt returns and gave up just a 21.0 average on six kickoffs. "We had to go back to basics," said safety Haruki Nakamura, who missed a tackle on Cribbs' score last week. "Guys stayed in their lanes. Everybody played fundamental football. We used our speed. Special-teams is a hustle game, and we hustled." … Jones recorded a sack late in the game, lining up defensive end in a rare two-way showing. "The guys on the line were getting tired, and they gave me a defensive playbook earlier in the week," Jones said. "I put my hand down and took off. I didn't think about nothing else but just running in there, and it worked out for me." … The Ravens had a season-high 27 first downs. … The Ravens deactivated quarterback Todd Bouman, McAlister (right knee), safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion), linebacker Antwan Barnes, offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, wide receiver Marcus Smith, tight end Daniel Wilcox (illness/thigh) and defensive tackle Lamar Divens.

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


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