Reed, Ravens' D feast on Dolphins
Ed Reed had two picks, including one returned for a TD in the wild-card victory
The Dolphins went into Sunday committing a league-low 13 turnovers this season
Reed and Co. taking advantage of pressure the Ravens offense puts on opponents
MIAMI -- One of Ed Reed's first over-the-shoulder catches didn't go so well. He was 7 or 8 years old, running full speed, and he crashed into a mailbox.
"That's how I got this scar," said Reed, the Baltimore Ravens safety, pointing to his forehead on Sunday in the visitor's locker room at Dolphin Stadium.
Reed's subsequent over-the-shoulder grabs have gone much better, though, maybe none better than his second-quarter interception of a Chad Pennington deep ball in the Ravens' 27-9 victory over Miami in their AFC wild-card game.
With the game tied at 3-3, Pennington threw a pass that appeared to sail over the secondary's head. Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn Jr. fell down. But Reed, in full stride and with his back to the ball, reached out and snagged the catch, Willie Mays-style. All by itself the play was remarkable, but Reed wasn't done.
He darted to his left, hurdled a tackle by fullback Patrick Cobbs, switched the ball from his left hand to his right and cut back to the right. With some timely blocks, Reed kept his legs churning and didn't stop until the end zone. Sixty-four yards. Stadium quiet. Pennington never looked the same.
"Counting the zigzags it felt like 200 yards," Reed said of his long dash. "I don't think I caught my breath until the third quarter."
If Reed had a more showy personality, he might grace highway billboards and cereal boxes. Instead, he simply punches the clock and breaks quarterbacks hearts.
Including Baltimore's 36-7 win over Philadelphia in Week 11, Reed has 10 interceptions in his last seven games. They are the kind of numbers that, in the long term, will send Reed to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In the meantime, they could help lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
"When you have a safety like Ed Reed, you are going to get turnovers," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "It's as simple as that. I remember that we drafted him with the 24th pick. There are a lot of teams who missed on him."
In all, Baltimore tallied five turnovers, including Reed picking off a second Pennington pass in the third quarter. The Dolphins had committed a league-low 13 turnovers this season before losing their way Sunday.
"I don't think it was Chad Pennington's fault," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It was Ed Reed and Rex Ryan's fault."
Said linebacker Ray Lewis: "The beauty of Ed Reed is that he understands his role. If the ball doesn't get over his head, we win. We heard all week how [the Dolphins] don't turn the ball over. We'll, we create turnovers."
With a capable quarterback in Joe Flacco running the offense, Reed and the Ravens defense become even more dangerous. Now, opponents know they have to score points to beat Baltimore, and that can force them into the kind of mistakes Miami made Sunday.
Pennington, the league's comeback player of the year, threw four interceptions and finished with a 53.7 quarterback rating.
"There are a lot of things that go into the whole thing," Miami coach Tony Sparano said of the Dolphins turnovers. "Certainly it's more than one person in this whole thing. There were some times where it was pressure, there were some things that I'm sure we wish we had back, but you can't second-guess yourself in that situation right now."
More than anything, it was Reed, lurking the shadows of the secondary, snatching footballs out of the sky.
"[Ed's] maybe the best player in the game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You can certainly make an argument for it. Put him next to Ray Lewis and say they're the two best in the game."
Said Ginn: "We played a pretty good defense - and we played a great safety."