INDIANAPOLIS — - If you believe Ed Reed, one of his last plays as a Raven could be a free-wheeling, loose play that perhaps cost the Ravens any chance they had of mounting a comeback against the Indianapolis Colts.
Reed's inability to protect the football after he had intercepted Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning in the third quarter quashed any hope the Ravens might have harbored of overcoming a 14-point deficit as the Colts cruised to a 20-3 victory in an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After the game, Reed, a six-time Pro Bowl selection who is one of the best ball-hawking safeties to play the position, acknowledged that he is considering retirement.
"I've been thinking about it," said Reed, who has returned seven interceptions for touchdowns and is the only player in NFL history to score off an interception, a recovered fumble, a blocked punt and a punt return. "It kind of hit me on the sideline. It hit me now because I don't know how much I'm going to be able to have going forward. It'll be a long offseason just thinking about. It hurts just thinking about it."
Reed missed four games this season because of a strained groin and played last year despite a nerve impingement in his neck. He labeled his percentage on returning as "50-50."
"It's my decision at the end of the day to play with injuries," he said. "We'll see. I take good advice from my doctors. It's been great up to this point, fighting through. I wanted to battle this year even with the injuries I had last year and the injuries I had this year. There were no excuses coming into this season about injuries. That's why I was never frustrated when I injured my groin. Injuries come especially at this point in my career. You fight through. You lose like this, it's hard to lay it down. At the end of the day, you have to think about family. I have a family now. We shall see."
If Saturday night is his last game in the NFL, Reed's ability to dazzle and befuddle were on full display.
Against the Colts, Reed gathered his seventh interception in seven career postseason games, tying him with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel for the most playoff interceptions among active players.
The pickoff occurred in the third quarter when Reed stepped in front of a long pass by Manning to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. (It was the fourth time in his past five meetings that Reed had intercepted Manning.)
But while racing down the left sideline, Reed, who seemed to dangle the football away from his body with his right arm, had the ball punched out from behind by Garcon at the Colts' 27. The loose ball was recovered by tight end Dallas Clark.
Reed chastised himself for his gaffe, saying: "You make a pick and turn it over. You can't do that. You've got to give our offense a chance to score."
Said coach John Harbaugh: "Great play by Garcon. Obviously, that hurt us. Just like any ball carrier out in the open, you have to put that ball away. If the ball comes off your body low like that, it's got a chance to be knocked out."
Not only did the play return possession to Indianapolis, but the miscue was also reminiscent of Reed's ill-advised lateral attempt on a punt return that cemented the Colts' 17-15 win against the Ravens on Nov. 22.
Reed seemed to make amends for his transgression when he intercepted Manning again in the third quarter, grabbing a long pass intended for Clark. Reed returned the ball 24 yards to Indianapolis' 11, but the play was negated when cornerback Corey Ivy was cited for interfering with Clark.
"I didn't know there was a flag thrown, and after I saw the replay, didn't think a flag should have been thrown on that pass interference," Reed said. "But I'm not the ref. Ain't nothing you can do about it. Once the call is made, you play the game."
Reed has always been able to read and react in a split-second. His assessment of his future will take slightly longer.
"There's too many emotions flying right now to make a decision," Reed said. "You'll know soon."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.