Mixed results for free safety replacement Zbikowski

Starting in place of injured star Reed, he makes INT but allows 2 TD catches

December 08, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. — — Someday, the mantle might be passed from Ed Reed to Tom Zbikowski. Monday night, though, was not that time.

Filling in for the injured five-time Pro Bowl selection at free safety, Zbikowski finished with a potentially bright but uneven performance in the Ravens' 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Zbikowski made four tackles and recorded his first career interception off budding superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But Zbikowski also was on the short end on both of tight end Jermichael Finley's touchdown catches.

"Ups and downs," Zbikowski said of his performance. "Obviously, I had the pick, but I made a couple of dumb plays here and there. So I'll get those corrected and come back and keep trying to get better."

Zbikowski earned his first career start when Reed was deactivated before Monday night's game.

Reed - who missed his first game since Nov. 27, 2005 (a span of 64 regular-season games), when he was hindered by a high right ankle sprain - was scratched because of injuries to his ankle and hip.

Reed did not practice Thursday or Friday and had been limited Saturday when he was listed on the team's injury report as questionable against Green Bay.

But according to team spokesman Kevin Byrne, Reed took part in warm-ups about 1 hour, 45 minutes before kickoff and could not turn as he was accustomed to. That prompted the coaches to deactivate him.

The move was somewhat surprising considering that one Ravens coach had said last week that he expected Reed - who declined to comment after the game - to play Monday night.

"Well, we've got to assume that for sure Ed will be 100 percent," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison had said Friday. "That's the way we're looking at that."

Zbikowski's four tackles tied him for seventh among the Ravens defensive players with rookie linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. And Zbikowski looked like Reed, playing the deep part of the field and catching a pass from Rodgers that overshot wide receiver Greg Jennings with 3:39 left in the first quarter.

"Ed told me before the game that depth is my friend this game," Zbikowski said. "He said, 'Make sure you're deep, make sure you're on top of the receiver, and just watch the ball.' "

Zbikowski's biggest hiccups occurred on Finley's touchdowns. On the 2-yard alley-oop that Rodgers floated to the 6-foot-5 Finley in the second quarter, the 5-11 Zbikowski could not wrestle the ball away from the tight end.

And then on Rodgers' 19-yard dart to Finley in the fourth quarter, the 210-pound Zbikowski could not bring down the 247-pound Finley before he crossed the goal line.

Zbikowski vowed to watch the game film and make the necessary improvements.

"I just wanted to go out and play," Zbikowski said. "There's plenty of guys on this defense that make this defense what it is. I just had to play within myself and minimize my mistakes and play."

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