McAlister, Reed find their way to end zone

Players turn game's tide, score Ravens' only TDs

Nfl Week 6

Ravens 26, Cardinals 18

October 13, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister likened some of the game-changing plays he and safety Ed Reed made in yesterday's 26-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals to something that usually has a negative definition.

"It's like a virus," McAlister said of the duo's interception and special teams touchdown. "And it passed through the whole team."

Well, at least it passed through McAlister and Reed, who provided the Ravens' only touchdowns of the afternoon.

It started with Reed, who blocked Scott Player's punt late in the second quarter and returned it 22 yards down the sideline for a score.

With the Ravens up 9-7 and having forced a three-and-out with just under two minutes left in the half, Reed eluded blocker Levar Fisher and came face-to-face with Player.

After extending his arms and sending the punt sideways then slightly backward, Reed ran about 10 yards across the field, got the ball at the 22 and ran untouched for a touchdown and a 16-7 lead.

"John Jones [who lined up next to Reed] gave me a great look, an opportunity to make a move inside," Reed said. "I took a chance, and it was wide open for me. I'm just thinking pick it up and let whatever happens after that."

It was Reed's second blocked punt return for a touchdown in his career, and his third blocked punt overall. Ravens coach Brian Billick said he couldn't fully explain Reed's ability to make big plays.

"He's just got that knack," Billick said. "It goes beyond speed and intuition. You just have the right get-off with the right dip of the shoulder with the right aiming point. He's got a real knack for it."

The same can be said defensively for McAlister, at least when he is playing his best. But even in his most impressive game of the season, McAlister could not escape controversy.

McAlister intercepted Arizona quarterback Jeff Blake with a little more than four minutes left in the third quarter, shadowing Anquan Boldin on a simple out route, then stepping in front of the receiver and taking the pass 83 yards for a score.

The touchdown put the Ravens up 23-10, ended what had been a 58-yard drive by the Cardinals, and effectively put Arizona in an insurmountable hole.

The problem was, McAlister started celebrating his play around the 25-yard line, where he pointed the ball toward the Cardinals' offense, then turned around and backpedaled into the end zone.

His antics drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and yet another lecture from Billick and secondary coach Donnie Henderson.

"They let me know not to point that ball no more, I can tell you that much," McAlister said. "It could have cost us had the game been closer."

Said Billick: "At some point, he'll learn. It's always bittersweet with Chris. And I'm sure he's going to hear about it. Hopefully, we'll get the first part [of his play] and not the latter part."

McAlister said his gestures had more to do with the circumstances of the past few weeks. He was declared inactive for the game against the San Diego Chargers three weeks ago after reportedly missing a team meeting and curfew.

This came after McAlister declared earlier that week for television cameras that the Ravens were on a business trip.

"Just coming back after the last month that I've had, that makes this game that much more significant, no matter where it was at," said McAlister, who played at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"It's been a long time. I've personally gone through a lot. Unfortunately, mine was on TV and I had to deal with it everywhere I went. The celebration was probably a little from being bottled up the last couple of weeks. I've got it out of my system now."

Overall, though, the Ravens could not have asked for more from the star players in their secondary.

McAlister had another interception, his first of the season, on a similar pattern near the sideline in the second quarter that he returned 4 yards to the Cardinals' 35, setting up a Matt Stover field goal.

That interception was McAlister's first since Week 4 of the 2002 season against the Cleveland Browns.

Reed also recorded an interception, picking off Blake late in the fourth quarter at the Ravens' 7 and returning it 33 yards to seal the game.

Despite the big plays by the tandem, Reed was left wanting more.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Reed said.

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