'You want to break an opponent's will'

BALTIMORE -- Mortified after being steamrolled by the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants a week ago in a dispiriting loss that raised doubts about their viability to contend, the Baltimore Ravens issued a convincing rebuttal Sunday as they unleashed their frustrations on the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Ravens' 36-7 victory represented a major statement, particularly from a defense determined to prove it won't be pushed around again.

Not only did the Ravens (7-4) impose their will for five turnovers, they completed demoralized the reeling Eagles through superi or aggressiveness as coach Andy Reid exiled ineffective star quarterback Donovan McNabb to an unfamiliar location: the bench.

"Last week was embarrassing," said linebacker Bart Scott, referring to a 30-10 loss to the Giants where the defense allowed 207 rushing yards. "We never want to let anything like that happen again."

The Ravens intercepted four passes and rendered Eagles running back Brian Westbrook obsolete.

"You want to break an opponent's will," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said, "and we did that."

Free safety Ed Reed's instincts and game-changing ability were on full display as he intercepted two passes, including an interception of quarterback Kevin Kolb in the fourth quarter that he returned 108 yards for a touchdown on the longest interception return in NFL history. It breaks Reed's previous mark of 106 yards against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 7, 2004.

"That ended the game right there," linebacker Jarret Johnson said.

"That was the punctuation point," Scott said. "That totally deflated them."

Scoring 26 unanswered points after halftime, the Ravens closed out the game by demonstrating a killer instinct. Afterward, the traditional swagger had returned to the locker room.

"You want to send a message to other people watching the film that once your head is underwater, we're going to keep it there," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We've got the mentality that we don't let people back in th e game. We want to beat people into submission.

"That's our mentality ever since the Pittsburgh and Tennessee losses that we keep their heads under the water. We just didn't want to let last week happen again. You saw they came out running the ball to try us, but we defended our home turf."

Reed made certain of that by intently studying wide receiver Reggie Brown on a suggestion from safety Haruki Nakamura as he broke the huddle, hanging back slightly in shadowing the pattern before swooping in and breaking in front of the receiver in the end zone for the turnover.

"Once he went across the field, it was pretty simple from there: just keep trailing it," Reed said. "The quarterback never even saw me come from behind. It's a blessing just to come out and read the keys and do your job.

"I don't bait people. It's more of a respect thing. I haven't really been getting many balls thrown to my side. It wasn't a bait. I was just covering the guy, doing my job."

And Reid finished the job by bolting out of the end zone and traversing the sideline for the entire distance of the field, plus eight yards. Reed eluded Kolb and ran through Westbrook's feeble arm tackle attempt near midfield, eluding diving lineman Todd Herremans and faked out tight end Brent Celek to give Baltimore a commanding 29-7 lead with 7:24 remaining.

"I was just thinking, 'Just run,'" Reed said. "Once I saw Westbrook, I know he's a20fast guy. I thought I ran out of bounds and it was just, "Just keep running, be smart,' And then it just sprung from there."

It was the 37th interception of Reed's career, the fifth interception return for a touchdown and his 10th career touchdown overall. No NFL player has more interceptions than Reed since he entered the league in 2002.

Plus, Reed is competing while dealing with a painful nerve impingement of his neck and left shoulder that nearly derailed his season after he was held out of the entire preseason while consulting several medical specialists.

"It's just grinding it out," Reed said. "I play for my teammates and coaches. I just try to do my part."

His 151 return yards on the two turnovers were more than the Eagles' quarterbacks' passing yards combined.

Unlike his first interception of McNabb where he rambled down to the Eagles' six-yard line before imprudently trying to lateral it to cornerback Samari Rolle, Reed was more careful this time. If it hadn't been ruled an illegal forward lateral because Reed pitched it forward following a 43-yard return in the second quarter, Baltimore could have lost the football.

"It was all the guys on the team saying, 'Be smart, know the situ ation,'" said Reed, who has a bad habit of laterals after interceptions. "Coach didn't really have to say anything, and he didn't. I kind of went up to him and said, 'My bad.' In certain situations, you're supposed to have the ball tucked.

"I thought I could throw a block or something and Samari could spring it, but I didn't know the whole line was chasing him. It was a terrible pitch. I usually don't lateral the ball that bad."

It wound up not mattering.

By midway through the second half, the Eagles were essentially finished. They had only 35 rushing yards at halftime.

They only averaged 3.2 yards per offensive play, finishing with 120 net passing yards. McNabb and Kolb combined to complete just 18 of 41 passes for 132 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions for a cumulative 12.5 quarterback rating.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata played a major role in limiting Westbrook, last year's NFL yardage leader from scrimmage, to 39 rushing yards.

Ngata noticed a big difference in the Eagles' spirit as the score became more and more lopsided.

"The competitiveness from them wasn't there anymore," Ngata said. "In the first couple of quarters, their offensive linemen were jumping up and down and they were fired up, swinging their arms. By the fourth quarter, none of that was happening. It was a lot of fun making them a one-dimensional team."

McNabb was benched at halftime after completing just 8 of 18 passes for 59 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble for a 13.2 rating.'

"I thought he was hurt, I didn't know why he was yanked," Suggs said. "It's fortunate for me. I'm in this locker room saying we got the win."

Kolb completed just 10 of 23 passes for 73 yards and two interceptions for a 15.3 rating, the lowest for an opposing quarterback with at least 20 attempts in Baltimore franchise history. Giants quarterback Eli Manning posted a zero rating on 18 passes against the Ravens four years ago.

"I'm not surprised by what our defense does," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "When you look at all the players that we have on this defense, it's just a beautiful thing if you step back and look at it."

It was definitely quite a turnaround from a week ago.

"I don't think you ever know because there are no guarantees and you're going against the fourth-ranked defense," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was thrilled to win against his old team whom he had worked for the past decade. "We had our work cut out for us. You couldn't just say, 'Oh, we're going to get our revenge. We're going to come back and we're going to make up for last week against this team.'"

Yet, the Ravens' only touchdown allowed was on a 100-yard kickoff return from Quintin Demps in the first half.

The Ravens built a 12-7 lead in the third quarter when rookie linebacker and Philadelphia native Jameel McClain blocked a Sav Rocca punt out of the back of the end zone.

Then, Matt Stover kicked a 42-yard field goal to launch a 24-point fourth quarter capped by a 53-yard touchdown pass from rookie Joe Flacco to Mark Clayton on a crossing route, Reed's big interception return and a one-yard touchdown plunge from fullback Le'Ron McClain.

The Ravens' offense kept squandering opportunities in the first half following Johnson's sack, forced fumble and return to the Eagles' 48-yard line and cornerback Fabian Washington's interception return to the Eagles' 48-yard line with punts after each turnover. It was scoreless until the second quarter when the teams combined for 17 points in 1 minute, 23 seconds.

Stover hit a 44-yard field goal. Reed's first interception set up Flacco's arcing one-yard touchdown pass that tight end Daniel Wilcox secured with his left hand on the right corner of the end zone and Demps busted up the middle for his kickoff return, the longest by a rookie in Eagles history.

"Late in the year, you know it's going to be a dogfight," said Flacco, who completed 12 of 26 passes for 183 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. "We kept at it and didn't put our heads down. Late in the game, we prevailed."

In the second half, the Ravens closed out the Eagles by figuratively stepping on their throats to transform a competitive game into a laugher. Now, the Ravens remain one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North and are in the thick of the wild-card hunt.

"You don't want a team to try to get in a rhythm because you never know what could happen," Suggs said. "In years past, we didn't put teams away and the game turned on us. We've got to put teams away. That's been our theme this year. We didn't want to relive that experience."


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