Best play? Hard to say

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

A variety of roles gives Ngata a chance to show off his versatility in all phases

Ravens Gameday

November 10, 2008|By Jamison Hensley and David Steele and and | Jamison Hensley and David Steele and and,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com and david.steele@baltsun.com

HOUSTON - Haloti Ngata made his presence felt when he intercepted a pass in the end zone, the first big defensive stop for the Ravens in yesterday's 41-13 rout of the Houston Texans.

"That's the play everybody will talk about, but that wasn't his best play," coach John Harbaugh said.

It would be hard to choose which one was. Ngata had the best overall game of any Raven yesterday, contributing on defense, offense and special teams.

On defense, he had two hits on quarterback Sage Rosenfels (one of which led to an interception by Ray Lewis) and knocked down two other passes.

On offense, Ngata was used as a tight end on the team's goal-line package and provided the lead block on Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

On special teams, he lined up over the long snapper and nearly plowed his way into a blocked punt early in the game.

But most will remember Ngata's interception, which came on first-and-goal from the Ravens' 1-yard line. Ngata dropped back into coverage, jumped with both arms extended to tip the ball and turned to make his second interception of the season.

That turnover preserved the Ravens' 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

"Well, I thought they were running the whole time," Ngata said. "I hit my inside gap and tried to read the quarterback. I was just trying to get in front of him and get the ball."

Going deep

On his first career NFL field-goal attempt, kickoff specialist Steve Hauschka connected on a 54-yarder that cleared the low right corner of the goal post.

"I didn't hit it good, but I didn't hit it bad," said Hauschka, a walk-on as a graduate student at North Carolina State who was playing in his second NFL game. "It probably wouldn't have been good from 56."

It was the first time someone other than Matt Stover had attempted a Ravens field goal since 2005, when Aaron Elling missed on a 54-yarder.

Later yesterday, Stover missed a 50-yard attempt wide left, but he tied the NFL record for most consecutive extra points (371).

Rolle with the hits

It was probably too much to ask that, after neck surgery and missing seven games, Samari Rolle would ease back into full-scale game action. Of the Texans' first offensive play, Rolle said, "I thought it would be a run."

It was a pass to his side of the field to 215-pound Kevin Walter, and the two smashed hard into each other. Rolle absorbed the blow in his upper body, got up and kept playing.

"We were more worried about the physical part of it, but he stepped up and smacked somebody right away," coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the kind of football player he is."

Said Rolle: "I was fine. I was good after it. I'm all right. After that first hit, I didn't think about it."

Not only did Rolle play the rest of the game without hesitation about his injury, but he also got the last of the Ravens' four interceptions in the fourth quarter, the 30th of his 11-year career. It was the only one from the secondary, which lost Chris McAlister for the season last week but can absorb that with Rolle's return.

"It means a lot," Rolle said. "Chris is a major part of our defense, and to not have him now, everybody's got to step up and try to replace him. We just have to stick together and play hard together."

Still only a double threat

In order, the plays in the Ravens' two-quarterback package yesterday that Troy Smith enjoyed most were his touchdown pass to Todd Heap, his 8-yard run to convert a big third down - and the botched cross-field pass to Smith from Joe Flacco.

"Right away, Joe came up to me and tried to apologize for the throw," Smith said, "and I told him, as long as he's completing the ones that really matter, that doesn't affect me at all."

The play, immediately after the two-minute warning in the first half, started with Smith, in the shotgun, lateraling to Flacco, who was split wide right. Flacco's pass back to the left, however, one-hopped Smith for an incompletion. Three plays later, Hauschka kicked his 54-yard field goal.

In the third quarter, on third-and-two at the Texans' 33, Smith ran right for 8 yards; that drive ended with Stover's 50-yard missed field-goal attempt. In the fourth, however, Smith got Heap his second touchdown - and improved to 2-for-2 passing this season, with his other completion to Flacco two weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders.

Of the package, Smith said: "I don't think we're trying to surprise anybody now. Obviously, teams know that when I get a chance to get in there, we're coming right at you, whether it be in the air or on the ground. That's our mentality."

Shouldering the load

After spending much of the first half on the sideline nursing a dislocated shoulder, wide receiver Derrick Mason was itching to return. The Ravens wasted no time getting him involved, opening the third quarter with a 9-yard strike to Mason and following it up four plays later with an 11-yard pass.

"Not to say it didn't hurt, but when adrenaline is going, you kind of block some things out," Mason said.

The 12th-year receiver was upended midway through the first quarter, when he leaped for a pass and landed hard on his right shoulder.

"You've got to help the team," said Mason, who finished with 41 yards on three catches. "If I can run, I can help the team. This thing wasn't unbearable."

End zone

The Ravens' four interceptions were a season high. They had a total of three interceptions in their previous four games. ... The Ravens once again dominated time of possession, 36:17 to 23:43. ... The Ravens' 27 first downs were a season best. They had 22 twice this year. ... The Ravens' inactives were cornerback McAlister, safety Dawan Landry, linebacker Antwan Barnes, offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, receiver Marcus Smith, tight end Daniel Wilcox and defensive tackle Lamar Divens. Todd Bouman was the third quarterback.

Baltimore Sun reporter Rick Maese contributed to this article.

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