Harbaugh triumphs against old team

BALTIMORE -- Drenched in ice water and picking ice cubes out of his collar during the final moments of a resounding victory, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stared across the field at Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid. It was a gratifying, emotionally charged moment for Harbaugh, the student who vanquished his teacher in a 36-7 win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"There's no way to describe it," Harbaugh said. "It was meaningful looking across, seeing Andy Reid over there, seeing the Eagles because I have great respect for them.

"The Eagles, believe me, will be back. The Eagles don't go away. That's why this game was so important for our football team. They've got great character, and that's a reflection of their coach."

It was a significant milestone for Harbaugh, a first-year head coach who spent the previous decade in Philadelphia coaching special teams primarily and the secondary last season before succeeding former Ravens coach Brian Billick in January.

Harbaugh was immediately greeted after the game with hugs and congratulatory handshakes from many of his former players, pausing at midfield to shake hands with Reid.

"It was coach Harbaugh's old team, and anytime you're playing an old team, I think there's a lot of emotions going on," tight end Daniel Wilcox said. "We knew that he had some serious passion going against the Eagles. So, we wanted to win this one for him. And not just win it, but win it big.

"We came on strong in the fourth quarter, and we just got blessed with a lot of points later in the game. It felt good to be able to get him a win against his old team."

TRUE GRIT: Despite the pain of a Grade 1 AC sprain in his right shoulder that prevented him from starting, offensive tackle Jared Gaither gutted it out and played nearly the entire game when Adam Terry was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first quarter.

The 6-foot-9, 330-pound former University of Maryland standout did an admirable job against a fierce Eagles pass rush while limited in arm strength and playing in visible discomfort.

"I was in pain," Gaither said. "I just wanted to tough it out. You know people are depending on you. It's a tough injury, but the team needs me and I'm going to give it everything I have. Right now, I'm feeling good because we won."

The offensive line was in rough shape heading into the game since Terry and right tackle Willie Anderson were dealing with sprained ankles.

"We really didn't want to play him, he was more in there for an emergency type situation because we have the other two tackles hanging by a thread," Harbaugh said. "Adam goes down and Jared jumps in and plays almost the whole game. I think it's a really courageous effort.

"He's a young guy that has figured out how to play through pain and play well through pai n. It's just tremendous for where he's going as a football player. He's going to be a great football player."

INJURY REPORT: Terry wasn't entirely coherent during the game after suffering the first concussion of his NFL career.

"I was pretty woozy," Terry said. "I got my bell rung. I was just trying to get my bearings."

Meanwhile, defensive end Trevor Pryce left the game with a concussion.

Wilcox and safety Ed Reed left the game with minor injuries, but returned.

TD SPECIALIST: Wilcox caught his second touchdown of the season in the second quarter, hauling in a one-yard pass from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco on the right side of the end zone.

"Obviously, it was huge," Harbaugh said. "He made a great catch. What an athletic play."

It was an acrobatic display from Wilcox to snare the football with his left hand, then drag both feet inbounds.

Following an instant-replay challenge from the Eagles, officials upheld the original touchdown call.

"The dude grabbed my arm to try to keep me from catching the ball, I just stuck my left arm up," Wilcox said. "I absolutely felt blessed and kept my feet inbounds and got six points.

"I knew I was inbounds. I had my little celebration dance. The red flag, I felt like that was useless."

This marks Wilcox's second score among his total of five receptions for the season. He caught a touchdown in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this year.

His touchdown was his lone catch of the game. Forty percent of his catches have gone for touchdowns.

"They keep telling me all I do is catch touchdowns," Wilcox said. "If they're going to keep throwing me one ball a game, let's pray that it's all touchdowns. It is what it is."

CELEBRATION ENJOYED: Wide receiver Mark Clayton hasn't scored as many touchdowns as he would like to lately, so he thoroughly enjoyed his 53-yard jaunt on a slant from Flacco.

Clayton performed an awkward forward flip inside the end zone after notching his third touchdown of the season and the ninth touchdown catch of the year. He didn't give himself many style points, though.

"The acrobatic flip was probably the worst celebration ever," Clayton said. "It probably won't happen again. I'm pretty sure it won't happen again."

SHINING: Rookie linebacker Jameel McClain blocked a Sav Rocca punt in the end zone in the third quarter to record his second safety of the season. The Philadelphia native grew up rooting for the Eagles.

The undrafted free agent from Syracuse credited Reed for drawing away the attention of Rocca's personal protector.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," he said.

McClain is the lone player in Ravens history to record two safeties in one season.

"I didn't have any in college," he said. "I guess I'm getting them all i n the NFL."

BIG GAME: Linebacker Jarret Johnson led the Ravens with six tackles, but his sack of quarterback Donovan McNabb, forced fumble and fumble recovery in one sequence that he returned 22 yards was his biggest play of the game.

He was pushed out of bounds at the Eagles' 48-yard line after registering the rare triple play.

"As a rusher, you know if he steps up too far to grab he's going to bring the ball back," Johnson said. "I just reached in and was able to get it up in the air and caught it and ran with it and he ran me down."

Johnson also split a sack with Pryce in the first half, tackling McNabb prior to his halftime benching.

"I was supposed to come up underneath and was able to bull-rush him, and Trevor beat his guy clean," Johnson said. "I just jumped on him. We know how dangerous a quarterback he is, but we knew that if you make him run around he's not as accurate."

RETURN REDUX: The Ravens allowed Eagles rookie Quintin Demps to bust a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

It's the second time this year that the kickoff team has allowed an opposing returner to run one back for a score.

Demps simply burst up the middle and accelerated upfield after the Eagles' blocking wedge picked off the Ravens' coverage team.

"They blocked every single one of us out there," Harbaugh said. "You talk about our special teams. Well, that was a disappoi ntment. Those are plays you just can't allow against good football teams in tight games.

"Our guys have to make an effort now to understand that you don't run around blocks at the point of attack, you don't stay blocked one-on-one and we've got to get better in that area. Give those guys credit, but we have to get better at kickoff coverage."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens deactivated defensive tackles Lamar Divens (shoulder) and Brandon McKinney, wide receivers Terrance Copper and Marcus Maxwell, offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, tight end Edgar Jones and cornerback Evan Oglesby and quarterback Todd Bouman. … The Ravens improved to 45-0 since 2000 when they have at least a plus-two turnover margin. ... The Ravens are now 50-19 at home dating back to 2000 and 14-4 at home in the month of November. ... This was the eighth time in franchise history Baltimore has intercepted four passes in a game. ... The Ravens held Brian Westbrook to 39 rushing yards and haven't allowed an opposing runner to eclipse the century mark in an NFL-best 30 games. ... Topping the Eagles 24-0 in the fourth quarter, the Ravens have outscored opponents 84-23 in the fourth quarter this year. ... The Ravens' annual food drive collected 28,000 pounds of food and $17,494 in donations to benefit the Maryland Food Bank.


Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco turned in an uneven performance with several erratic, inaccurate moments, completing just 12 of 26 passes for 183 yards. Unlike the Eagles' quarterbacks, Flacco didn't have an interception and he threw two touchdown passes to generate a somewhat misleading 95.5 rating.

Running back: C-plus

It would be an even higher grade if not for fullback Le'Ron McClain providing the majority of the output with a career-high 88 bruising yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, including a 28-yard burst to break the Eagles' will in the fourth quarter. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice combined to rush for just 15 yards on 15 carries for a one-yard average.

Receiver: C-plus

Except for Mark Clayton's 53-yard touchdown catch on a busted coverage off a slant route, there was very little production. It was another day where the defense and the running game overshadowed the passing game.

Offensive line: B-plus

Left tackle Jared Gaither played through the severe pain of a Grade 1 AC sprain in his right shoulder after Adam Terry left the game with a concussion and right tackle Willie Anderson was playing with a sprained ankle. Despite those situations, Baltimore only allowed three sacks against a defense tied for the NFL lead in sacks. They also opened up some big holes for fullback Le'Ron McClain to blast through.

Defensive line: B-plus

Haloti Ngata's i nstincts and range seem to improve daily, recording five tackles for one more than underrated lineman Justin Bannan. Trevor Pryce had two tackles for losses, two quarterback hits and a half-sack before leaving the game with a concussion.

Linebacker: B-plus

Jarret Johnson had a banner game, perhaps his best of the season with six tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery that he returned 22 yards. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis and Bart Scott played a significant role in stonewalling Brian Westbrook for 39 yards on 16 carries and holding Philadelphia to just 86 rushing yards on 21 carries.

Secondary: A

Free safety Ed Reed's masterful game was on full display, intercepting two passes as he set an NFL record with a 108-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second half. Cornerback Samari Rolle intercepted a pass, as did Fabian Washington. Donovan McNabb was intercepted twice and benched for rookie Kevin Kolb.

Special teams: D-minus

They allowed Quintin Demps to run right up the middle of the blocking wedge for a 100-yard kickoff return for a score, another embarrassing breakdown in the kicking game for the second score surrendered this year. To their credit, rookie linebacker Jameel McClain blocked a punt for a safety. Punter Sam Koch was solid, averaging 45.3 yards. Yamon Figurs was fairly ordinary in the return game for the most part.

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

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