Taking a page out of Sharpe's book, Heap comes up big

Ravens tight end shines in national spotlight with huge game vs. Broncos

Nfl Week 4

Ravens 34, Broncos 23

October 01, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Heading into last night's game, Ravens tight end Todd Heap pointed to one aspect of Shannon Sharpe's play that he longed for.

To Heap, it seemed like Sharpe, his former mentor with the Ravens and now the Denver Broncos' tight end, always played his best in big games, and frequently made a play when his team needed it most.

In his first Monday night game as the starting tight end, Heap proved he is more than capable of filling Sharpe's shoes, not just as a pass receiving threat but as a big-game player as well in the Ravens' 34-23 win over the Broncos.

Heap had one of the more memorable quarters by a tight end in Monday Night Football history, hauling in five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Heap's second-quarter heroics turned a close game into a blowout and ignited a 31-point outburst.

"You always want to play good in the big games," said Heap, the Ravens' 2000 first-round pick and the backup to Sharpe last season. "I think that is one thing I did learn from Shannon Sharpe. The biggest stage in football is Monday night, and you need to show up."

Heap entered last night's game averaging just 5 yards a catch and was largely underutilized in the previous two games.

But with two weeks to prepare for the Broncos, Ravens coaches made a concerted effort to get Heap the ball. With the RAvens down 3-0 and facing third-and-one, quarterback Chris Redman found Heap in the middle of the end zone on a perfectly lofted pass over the top of the outstretched arms of the Broncos' Kenoy Kennedy.

"It was a single-man route," Heap said. "We ran the fake left and the receivers took the safeties away, and I had one-on-one. The pass was just how I like it, high and soft, and I just out-jumped the defender. It was a perfect pass."

Redman made another perfect pass to Heap on a 3-yard touchdown. Heap gave a jab step to the inside before bowing out on a fade pattern and again out-leaping his defender.

"Heap's making me look good," Redman said. "He's a big target down the middle, easy to find. He is making great adjustments down the field. I hope we're playing together for a long time."

Before the second touchdown catch, Heap hauled in a 33-yard reception on the first play of the drive, a one-handed grab off the back of Kennedy down to the Broncos' 3.

It was the type of breakout game from Heap that Ravens coaches had predicted.

"I don't know that Todd needed to have that for me to know that he was a great player; I've been saying that since I've got here," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That is the kind of athleticism you see that is rare at that position to that degree. More importantly, he and Chris are developing a little bit of that rapport."

Catching on

Second-year tight end Todd Heap had his best performance as a pro in last night's 34-23 rout of the Broncos.

Opponent Date Rec. Yds. Avg. TD

Denver Broncos 9/30/02 5 84 16.8 2

Chicago Bears 9/9/01 5 57 10.4 0

Carolina Panthers 9/8/02 5 20 4.0 0

Jacksonville Jaguars 11/25/01 3 39 13.0 0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9/15/02 3 20 6.7 0

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