Ravens safety Ed Reed ended what could be an award-winning season with his ninth interception and an easy explanation on how it occurred.
"He threw me the football," Reed said.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Sage Rosenfels was not the only one. Reed made his mark by making life miserable for quarterbacks this season, and he did the same to Rosenfels yesterday in the Ravens' 30-23 win.
Reed returned the ball 41 yards to set an NFL single-season record with 358 return yards after interceptions. Reed also set the Ravens' single-season and career record (21 in three years) for interceptions.
The return yardage mark had stood for 43 years (San Diego's Charlie McNeil had 349).
"It's just another record," Reed said. "It will be up there for however long it will be up there. Sooner or later, someone will break it. Hopefully it will be me. I thank God for it, and for all the blessings and for my teammates being where they are supposed to be so I can make those plays and get those yards."
The interception came on the Dolphins' first possession of the third quarter. Rosenfels tried to hit Bryan Gilmore on a deep post pattern but found Reed instead, who returned the ball to the 2-yard line. Jamal Lewis scored a play later, and the Ravens took a 27-7 lead.
"It was a great play by [Adalius Thomas] jamming the guy, and I just read my progression and he threw it right there," Reed said.
For Reed, it gives him one final push to win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award. Reed, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior and Indianapolis Colts end Dwight Freeney are the primary candidates.
"He's been the defensive MVP in my opinion," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "But I don't get a vote."
Reed repeated the same mantra he has since midseason, when his name started being mentioned as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
"Just being mentioned for it is a blessing enough," Reed said. "If I get it, I get it. I hope I do, but it really doesn't matter. ... All that really matters is what the Ravens do as a team."
GETTING IT RIGHTEND
Line judge Tom Barnes' body did not cooperate with his mind.
Barnes called Travis Minor's run from the 1-yard line a touchdown before realizing his mistake and alerting referee Bernie Kukar to take it off the board.
"I had him short all the way, but for some reason, my hands went up," Barnes said. "I shouldn't have put [my hands up]."
Said Kukar: "He did come to me immediately, and he said, `Listen, this runner did not go across the goal line.' That's what I announced, that the runner was short of the goal line."
Ravens linebacker Ed Hartwell, who was in the middle of the scrum, said he knew Minor did not get in. Two plays later, Dolphins quarterback Sage Rosenfels was intercepted by Tony Weaver, and the Dolphins continued to trail 30-21.
"He didn't get in," Hartwell said. "He tried to dive, and me and T.J. [Slaughter] dove over the top and got a piece of him. ... His knee hit the ground because I hit the back of him. They reversed it, and that was a good thing."
Anthony Wright, Deion Sanders, Bart Scott, Edwin Mulitalo, Tony Pashos and Aubrayo Franklin were the Ravens' inactive players. ... Fans at M&T Bank Stadium donated $51,475 to the American Red Cross, and the Ravens donated an extra $25,000 for South Asia tsunami relief. ... Ravens kicker Matt Stover moved into 10th place on the NFL's all-time scoring list with 1,481 points. ... Wes Welker's 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the first for the Dolphins since 1989.
TIGHT ENDS TARGETED
After having no catches the past four games, tight end Daniel Wilcox led the Ravens yesterday with six for 72 yards.
The productive day for Wilcox was by design. Even without Todd Heap (ankle), the Ravens' passing game plan seemed to center on Wilcox and Darnell Dinkins, who started in Heap's place.
Wilcox and Dinkins combined for eight of Kyle Boller's 14 completions.
"[Our coaches] didn't think they would be able to cover our tight ends," Wilcox said. "So we just tried to exploit what we could.
"If Todd Heap isn't on the field, they sleep on our tight ends. So when you come up and do the things we did early in the game, now they have to focus on the middle again."
HYMES SAYS IT WAS TD
Ravens receiver Randy Hymes said his reception on a third-and-goal play from the 2 in the second quarter should have been ruled a touchdown.
Hymes was forced out of the back of the end zone but had both hands on the ball for a moment. The ball dropped after Hymes landed on the ground.
"They robbed me of the touchdown," Hymes said. "I watched the instant replay. It could have went either way. I should have caught it. It came out when I hit the ground, but my feet were in. When you get knocked out of bounds, it's still considered a touchdown."
Hymes had two catches for 19 yards, subbing primarily for receiver Travis Taylor, who was active but played fewer than a quarter of the snaps.
TIP DRILL PAYS OFF