Three pickoffs give Ravens pick-me-up

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Reed, Baxter, R. Lewis help win turnover battle

Notebook

Ravens

October 02, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After failing to create a turnover in their first two games, the Ravens forced Denver Broncos quarterback Brian Griese into three interceptions Monday night and won the turnover battle.

Safety Ed Reed, cornerback Gary Baxter and linebacker Ray Lewis recorded the pickoffs - all in a different manner. Reed's came on an overthrow by Griese on the first possession in the fourth quarter, Baxter's on a great individual effort in one-on-one coverage with Ashley Lelie in the end zone on the Broncos' next possession, and Lewis' on a bobble from fullback Mike Anderson in the second quarter.

"Turnovers are a critical part in the game, our guys being in position to make those turnovers to get the right pressure on," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's a coordination between the front and the back end [of the defense] and knowing when there is apt to be a little more pressure [put on the quarterback]. ... It's that collective mentality."

Although the Ravens lost two fumbles, the team finished with a plus-one turnover ratio and are at minus-one for the season.

Reed's and Baxter's interceptions helped squash a potential Broncos comeback, and Lewis' pickoff set up the Ravens' third touchdown.

Baxter, who started for the first time in his career, outfought Lelie for the ball on a 32-yard Griese pass.

"They ran a similar route toward me early in the game, and I didn't play it right like I should have," said Baxter, who finished second on the team with 11 tackles. "I told myself that if they ran the same route what I was going to do. They ran the same route, and I read it.

"It was great for me to come out on Monday Night Football and show that they are going to come after me, but I will make plays."

Full game for Brooks

For the first time in two seasons, right tackle Ethan Brooks started and finished an entire game.

Brooks, elevated to the first team after Edwin Mulitalo was moved back to left guard, held Pro Bowl defensive lineman Trevor Pryce without a sack, hardly any pressures and just one tackle.

His play may have brought stability to a position that has been a revolving door for the Ravens the past two years.

"I'm sore, but in terms of my stamina, I felt pretty good throughout the game," Brooks said yesterday. "I didn't feel like I dropped off at all. It always feels good to win. Going against a Pro Bowler in Trevor Pryce, I thought I handled him all right. I just want to get better from here. As an offensive line, we want to play better as a unit."

Gash as insurance

Fullback Sam Gash was on the inactive list for the second straight game.

Gash injured his hamstring late last week but probably would have been inactive regardless. It is a role Gash, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, will find himself in every week, barring certain matchups.

He was re-signed primarily as insurance in case Alan Ricard gets injured.

"All I can control is me, and that is being ready to play whenever I have to," Gash said. "Alan is doing a great job. He's playing physical. I'm up here as an insurance policy for him.

"I miss being out there. ... But it is one of those things where I'll do it as long as I have to."

End zone

Tight end Todd Heap suffered a deep thigh bruise and likely will be listed as questionable for Sunday night's game in Cleveland. Heap, who also suffered a mild back strain, had five catches for 84 yards and two leaping touchdowns against the Broncos. ... Linebacker Ray Lewis was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his 18-tackle performance Monday night. Cornerback Chris McAlister was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for returning a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown. ... Cornerback James Trapp was named the NFL Extra Effort Award winner for September for his work in the community.

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