HOUSTON - When Ravens tight end Todd Heap strolled to midfield for the coin toss, the cynical observer might have wondered whether that was as prominent a role as he would play against the Houston Texans.
After all, just one week earlier, Heap didn't see a single ball thrown his way, and he had yet to find the end zone this season.
The Ravens lost the coin toss, but Heap wasn't ready to call it a day. In fact, he turned in his biggest game of the season in the Ravens' 41-13 win over the Texans yesterday, finishing with two touchdowns and a team-high 58 yards on five receptions.
Heap has been hampered by injuries and said yesterday's performance was a testament to the progress he has made.
"At the beginning of the season, I wasn't as healthy as I've been in the past," he said. "I've been getting healthier and healthier as the season has gone on."
Both Heap's scores came in the fourth quarter. The first was in the opening minute, capped a 78-yard drive and provided a 14-point cushion, giving the Ravens much-needed breathing room. From the 1-yard line, Heap burst off the line and stumbled a bit as quarterback Joe Flacco rolled to his left.
"He really was my only guy on the route," Flacco said. "So I came around, saw him stumble down and was like, 'Oh, man.' "
The quarterback bided his time, though, and the tight end regained his footing.
"I started backing up, backing up and trusting that he was going to come up," Flacco said. "Then he was wide open, so it was pretty easy."
Heap said: "I don't care how it looked, as long as it worked."
In his eight-year career, Heap had never gone this deep into a season without a touchdown. Before that 1-yard toss, Heap hadn't scored since Week 2 of last season.
"It was a great feeling," he said. "It was a point in the game we needed it, so that made it even more pretty."
Heap's second touchdown came just three plays after Ray Lewis' second interception of the game, a 14-yard strike from Troy Smith that put the Ravens up 34-13. Most important, coach John Harbaugh said, is that the play came on third down.
"Not just the two touchdown catches for us," Harbaugh said, describing Heap's contribution, "but a couple of big, big conversions, third-and-long situations, where he made big catches for us and got open coming across the middle."
Heap also provided an important target for Flacco in the first half while Derrick Mason nursed a shoulder injury from the sideline (he later returned). By halftime, Heap had posted a season-high 43 yards.
Heap said the team exited the tunnel for the second half with a renewed focus and energy.
"The first half we didn't come and play how we wanted to, with the intensity we wanted to, the physicality we wanted," he said. "The second half, we came out and I think that's been one of our staples this year is really putting it to them in the second half."