Notebook: Ed Reed back on the field

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Baltimore Ravens gained some reinforcements just in time for the playoffs. During the Ravens' 21-13 victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders, star free safety Ed Reed returned after being out for a month with a slight groin tear. Reed registered five tackles. Most importantly, he didn't aggravate his injury.

"I felt rusty," he said. "All I did is knock off the rust. It felt all right. I've still got pain in it.

"Coming into this game, we knew this was a playoff game. I had to go."

Reed moved around well, but the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year understandably didn't seem as instinctive as usual. Reed displayed good range and reactions.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection estimated his health and capabilities at roughly 85 percent. Reed was substituted for occasionally by safety Tom Zbikowski, who played well while filling in for Reed for the past four games.

During his absence, Reed missed the camaraderie with his teammates.

"It felt real good when I got to practice, just being around those guys," Reed said. "They push you. Being around them, it honestly helps you to get through whatever you're going through. Pain and injuries or whatever. So, they helped me more than anything."

The Ravens will need a healthy Reed next Sunday against the New England Patriots during an AFC wild-card contest at Gillette Stadium.

"Glad to win, man," he said. "That was No. 1, getting to the playoffs and trying your best to stay healthy and not really worrying about it."

RECORD BOOK: Veteran running back Willis McGahee made all of the highlight shows with his punishing stiff-arm on safety Hiram Eugene during a 77-yard touchdown run.

Besides rushing for a season-high 167 yards and three touchdowns, McGahee is now in the Ravens' record books.

With his 14th total touchdown of the season, he tied former wide receiver Michael Jackson and former running back Jamal Lewis' single-season record for touchdowns.

Afterward, he carried the game ball into the press room for interviews.

McGahee hasn't complained about his reduced workload this season, accepting his role as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice's primary backup.

"It means a lot, but I thought my season went pretty well," said McGahee, who has rushed for 528 yards. "I have 14 touchdowns, so I can't complain. I might not have all the yards, but I had a lot of touchdowns. It was basically having fun watching Ray run and earning his first Pro Bowl. The ability this offense has, there's a lot of power behind it."

The Raiders seemed like they had prepared solely for Rice, who still rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries, and ignored McGahee during their preparations.

"I think they did game plan for Ray, but they had to stop the run," McGahee said. "We were doing such a great job running the ball with the offensive line blocking like that, so it didn't really matter."

The Ravens rushed for 240 yards, their second-highest total of the season behind their 308-yard game against the Detroit Lions.

McGahee's strong performance was a testament to his unselfish approach.

"Willis took over the game with the way he ran," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And I think our offensive line deserves a lot of credit. Obviously, there were holes, but this guy was running north and south."

"He was powerful. He was explosive. And I think he's worked really hard all season to have this kind of game. His attitude, his work ethic has been off the charts. Willis McGahee is a leader on this football team, and it was so good to see him step up the way he did."

ON THE SPOT: Undrafted rookie inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe's timing and instincts were impeccable.

He intercepted a telegraphed JaMarcus Russell pass during the second half followed by recovering a Russell fumbled forced by outside linebacker Antwan Barnes to allow the Ravens to close out the Raiders.

Ellerbe wasn't drafted after a solid career at the University of Georgia largely due to knee injuries and off-field issues.

"It's a blessing and a dream at the same time," said Ellerbe, who has started the past three games with Tavares Gooden out with a groin injury. "I came from a long way these last two years. Just to be healthy right now and playing with this defense alongside Ray Lewis, it's just a dream."

Meanwhile, Barnes' pass rushing skills have become a factor.

He recorded a sack for the second game in a row. "My short arms are good for something," Barnes said of his forced fumble. "We've stuck together through the tough times this season. We just do what we do and make plays."

ROUGH GAME: Quarterback Joe Flacco only passed for 102 yards and was sacked four times. It marks his season-low for passing yardage. His longest reception was 23 yards. He completed just four passes to his wide receivers for a total of 37 yards.

He looked out of sync and uncomfortable in the pocket all game.

"These guys are a big, tough, physical defense," said Flacco, who had a 72.7 passer rating. "They played tough, and you have to be impressed with their performance."

INJURY UPDATE: The Ravens didn't report any new injuries.

And offensive tackle Jared Gaither returned to his spot on the left side after missing the past three games with a foot injury and lower back problems.

Gaither didn't look especially sharp in pass protection, but didn't make his injuries any worse.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I got back in the flow."

Meanwhile, long snapper Matt Katula's tendinitis in his forearm/elbow continues to be an issue. His low snap led to Billy Cundiff's missed 37-yard field goal as time expired during the first half.

There was another bad snap on an extra point. If the situation doesn't improve, the Ravens may have to promote rookie long snapper Nick Sundberg from the practice squad.

WELCOME HOME: Chris Carr wasn't expecting applause.

And the former Raiders cornerback and kick returner didn't get it with the Black Hole raucously booing him when he was back to return punts.

"Surprisingly enough during warmups and by the bench, the fans were really cool," he said. "They were really nice. I knew I was going to get booed at some point as a former guy who was here."

"It's to be expected. They're diehard Raiders fans. I didn't expect them to cheer me like I still played for them., but it was kind of loud. I wasn't sure what to expect."

Carr became the Raiders' all-time leader with 4,841 kickoff return yards during his three-year tenure in Oakland.

On Sunday, Carr returned two punts for 33 yards as he averaged 16.5 yards per return.

"It feels good to come back to familiar surroundings," Carr said. "You want to play well, and I did a pretty good job."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens' game captains were Reed, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, nose guard Kelly Gregg, running back Ray Rice and linebacker Jameel McClain. … The Ravens deactivated third quarterback John Beck, wide receiver Justin Harper, safety Marcus Paschal, safety Keith Fitzhugh, linebacker Tavares Gooden (groin), offensive linemen David Hale and Tony Moll and nose guard Kelly Talavou. … The Raiders deactivated third quarterback J.P. Losman, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (knee sprains), former University of Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), running back Justin Fargas (knee), cornerback Chris Johnson, offensive guard Langston Walker, wide receiver Javon Walker and defensive end Greyson Gunheim.


Ravens Insider Top Stories