Heap absorbs hits and officials' apparent misses

Grand plans slip away from frustrated tight end

October 27, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Maybe this was exactly what Ravens tight end Todd Heap had in mind two weeks ago when he expressed a desire for a bigger role in his team's offense.

After the Ravens' 26-6 win over the Denver Broncos yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium, he was sore and seemed to be still a little woozy after absorbing a vicious hit by Broncos linebacker Al Wilson early in the second quarter.

Heap seemed to play a role in every big play from the Ravens' offense yesterday, but when the game was over, his stat line read: three catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

"I felt like I had more catches than that, man," said Heap, who was coming off his best game of the season, a seven-catch, 129-yard performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. "I felt like I had a few taken away from me."

So did Ravens coach Brian Billick, who blasted the league's instant-replay system after two apparent catches by Heap, one touchdown, were ruled incompletions on replay challenges.

"I give up," said an exasperated Billick. "I've tried to be an advocate for instant replay, but dump the whole [f------] thing. We've spend so much money on this and it doesn't work."

With the Ravens trailing 3-0 early in the second quarter, Ravens rookie quarterback Kyle Boller hit Heap in the middle of the end zone. Heap got walloped by Wilson but seemed to have possession of the ball until after he had hit the ground.

The play originally was called a touchdown but was overruled after Broncos coach Mike Shanahan challenged the call.

"I don't know if the refs don't like me or I'm just unlucky," said Heap, who three plays after the six points had been taken away, caught a 7-yard reception right at the 1 that was nullified by an illegal shift call on wide receiver Frank Sanders. "I thought that was a touchdown. I didn't see the replay, but that's what I thought when I came down with it."

Heap, who was visibly shaken when he walked off the field, called the hit by Wilson, "the hardest hit I've taken in my career," and said his head was ringing afterward.

Heap's frustration reached its peak in the third quarter when he thought he had caught a 28-yard pass from Boller on a third-and-10 on the Ravens' 42.

Heap came down with the ball and appeared to have taken at least three steps before Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy hit him and jarred the ball out of Heap's hands and out of bounds. But the official called it an incompletion, and an irate Billick saw his challenge denied.

"I really need to start holding on to those and stop putting it in the refs' hands," Heap said.

Heap did get revenge, making a one-handed, 33-yard grab down the sideline to put the ball on the Broncos' 24 on the first play of the fourth quarter. But even that drive ended in frustration, as a 2-yard loss by Jamal Lewis and an intentional-grounding call took the Ravens out of field-goal range and forced a punt.

It was one of those days for Heap, who was later asked if he was satisfied with the team's formula on offense yesterday.

"In my mind, I think we need to throw the ball every time," said Heap, starting to grin. "No, it's a good formula, and it's working for us. If we can keep it balanced like that and Jamal runs the way he runs, there's no reason why we should do anything else."

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