Return on investment

Leonhard's play leads to three turnovers, sets up field goal with big punt runback

January 11, 2009|By Bill Ordine

NASHVILLE, TENN. - It's certainly not the Ravens' defensive philosophy or temperament to play a bend-but-don't-break style, but when forced to do it yesterday against the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore's often-beleagured defenders dug in at the right time.

And when it came time to make a last-ditch stand, Ravens safety Jim Leonhard was involved in all three Baltimore takeaways that helped lift the Ravens to a 13-10 playoff win yesterday at LP Field.

In order, Leonhard:

* Applied the pass-rush pressure when Titans quarterback Kerry Collins threw a pass that was picked off by cornerback Samari Rolle at the Ravens' 12-yard line in the second quarter.

* Recovered a fumble by Titans running back LenDale White on the Baltimore 15-yard line just before halftime.

* Along with linebacker Bart Scott, helped knock the ball loose from Tennessee tight end Alge Crumpler that was recovered by cornerback Fabian Washington on the Ravens' 1-yard line midway in the fourth quarter.

Leonhard also returned a punt 29 yards to the Titans' 41-yard line late in the third quarter that gave the Ravens a short field the offense used to get a 21-yard field goal.

"The fumble recovery [that was forced by linebacker Jarret Johnson] was just being in the right spot at the right time," Leonhard said. "[White] fumbled it and it came though a crowd and hit me right in the chest. It was just one of those gifts of just being around the ball.

"The last one, I wish I remembered more of it. I saw [Crumpler] caught the ball and broke on it. I don't know what I hit, the ball, his leg or whatever, and then he fumbled."

On the play, Leonhard suffered a concussion and did not return to the game.

For the Ravens, yesterday's game was a reversal of how they normally like to approach things. Usually, the defense is on the attack and the opposing offense is back on its heels.

But the Ravens were frequently backpedaling yesterday, just trying to keep the Titans out of the end zone.

"They kind of got the best of us early in the game, but we got off the field when we needed to," Leonhard said.

"They'll be kicking themselves tonight and the whole offseason," Leonhard said of the Titans. "They moved the ball. They did what they needed to do on offense, but we got off the field when we had to."

Despite being woozy after the game, Leonhard relished the role in which he finds himself since joining the Ravens after three seasons of part-time duty in Buffalo.

"I've been put in a position to make plays, and I've been doing it. ... I'm just having the most fun playing football that I've had in a long time," he said. "This group of guys is amazing, and we feel like we're on a higher mission."

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