Kelly Gregg is as good at brushing off compliments as he is shrugging off opposing offensive linemen.
After a stellar performance in the Ravens' 22-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams yesterday in which the defensive tackle compiled seven tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, Gregg was more than willing to share the credit with his defensive teammates.
"Luckily, I had a chance to make a few plays, and I made them," he said. "I missed a couple tackles, but I'm part of a whole `D' line. We try to make plays and not just be robots out there."
The 30-year-old anchor of the defensive line was right. The defense smothered the Rams, and the line was a huge factor in the defense's play.
But if Gregg was selling himself short, coach Brian Billick wasn't.
"This is just the standard," he said of Gregg's effort. "Just put that in [as] automatic: `Great job, great player, great character.' "
Gregg, who never had a sack and fumble recovery in the same game in his eight-year career until yesterday, seemed to record a game-changing play in every quarter.
His sack of Rams quarterback Gus Frerotte in the first quarter contributed to St. Louis having to punt from its 5-yard line and eventually led to Matt Stover's first of five field goals.
Gregg's tackle of running back Brian Leonard behind the line of scrimmage in the second quarter pushed the Rams outside of the Ravens' 10 and forced St. Louis to settle for a 35-yard field-goal attempt by Jeff Wilkins, who pulled it wide left.
Finally, Gregg plucked Frerotte's fumble out of the air late in the third quarter to give the Ravens possession at the Rams' 27. Stover followed with his fourth field goal.
Afterward, Gregg was nonchalant about his play.
"I was just lucky enough to make a couple plays and make a couple tackles," he said. "That's what we preach - getting off blocks - and that's what we just try to do."
On the fumble recovery, Gregg rumbled 4 yards before Rams left offensive tackle Alex Barron pulled him down. Gregg said the thought of taking it to the end zone popped into his head. "The winds could have blown me over, I was so nervous," he said.
Gregg's showing was symbolic of the defensive line's outstanding game. Haloti Ngata had seven tackles, two for no gain, and a sack. Justin Bannan registered five tackles and a sack that forced Frerotte's fumble, which was recovered by Gregg. And Dwan Edwards had four tackles and an interception.
Ngata said Gregg's display sparked the line.
"I just feed off of him, and we keep working and working and try to make more plays," Ngata said. "We as a `D' line work as a unit really well, and we feed off of each other."
But for all of his work and despite almost annual declarations from former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher that he's the NFL's most underrated player, Gregg has never been voted to the Pro Bowl - a pattern that has amazed his teammates.
"I think throughout his career, he's been - I don't want to say underestimated - but he doesn't get the credit that he deserves," Bannan said. "To do the things he does and to have the numbers that he does, no one else does that.
"And it almost makes you wonder, `Why isn't he The Man?' Because he should be for the numbers that he puts up. He's the most consistent `D' lineman that I've ever been around, and it's just good to play with a guy like that."