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 OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -Gamebreaker.
It is a term usually reserved for an offensive star with the innate ability to deliver a victory by becoming the most influential athlete on the field. For the defensive-minded Baltimore Ravens, that player is safety Ed Reed.
Reed intercepted two passes Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, returning the first pick 43 yards and taking the second an NFL-record 107 yards for a touchdown (breaking his own record of 106 yards). His 150 yards in interception returns was a franchise record and only 56 yards fewer than Philadelphia could muster in a 36-7 defeat.
The touchdown was originally recorded at 108 yards, but the Elias Sports Bureau formally changed it to 107 yards on Wednesday. Regardless, Reed's jersey and the football have been sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his influence on Sunday's game remains the same.
been doing that for a long time in his career, where he basically takes over the football game,'' Ravens rookie head coach John Harbaugh said. ``It was fun to watch, me being here for the first time, to see it firsthand.''
Reed has 10 career touchdowns, an amazing number for a defensive back in his seventh pro season. He has returned five interceptions for scores, taken three blocked punts into the end zone, and scored on a fumble return and a punt return.
``You got to taste it. That's what my brother tells me when we work out,'' Reed said Wednesday. ``I guess it comes from my offensive mentality; I played offense in high school, did punt returns, kick returns and all that. It's a matter of wanting the ball and understanding it's part of my job, to go out there and be where I'm supposed to be and make the plays I'm supposed to make.''
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has made his share of big plays, but even he was impressed by Reed's performance Sunday. Lewis is used to receiving praise, not handing it out, yet after watching Reed single-handedly break down the Philadelphia offense he said, ``Ed Reed is just one of the greatest ballplayers I've ever seen.''
that he spends hours studying the habits of opposing receivers and learning the tendencies of the enemy's offense.
``He's smart. That's what it boils down to. Is he athletic? Of course he's athletic,'' said Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, who has competed against Reed in games and in practice. ``I would take a guy who is smart over someone who has the ability. But with Ed, he shows both each and every time he goes out there. It comes through film study. Understanding the game, understanding the position.''
Said Reed: ``Derrick has it right on. Studying film is definitely a big part of it. After playing for so long, it kind of comes to you easy. Studying tape gives you that extra oomph you need to get to the next level.''
Reed, the Ravens career leader in interceptions (37), knows what to do once he gets his hands on the football. But he's also a sure tackler, an absolute requirement as Baltimore's last line of defense on virtually every play. And his athleticism shows why he played quarterback in high school before becoming a star safety at the University of Miami.
Like any gamebreaker, Reed gets in the mind of the team he's playing long before the opening kickoff. This week, he's occupying the thoughts of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
ared. ``Ed is just a receiver playing safety, and when he gets the ball he's like a running back. Great hand-eye coordination, great understanding of the game. And if you don't see him, he will hit you, because he did that to me last year. I've got a scar on my face. Every time I look in the mirror, I remember who did it.''
Reed's performance this year is particularly impressive because he's been playing hurt. A nerve impingement around his neck and shoulder kept him sidelined for the entire preseason, which led to a hamstring injury during the regular season because he was, in his words, ``not in total football shape.''
The nerve problem lingers, but it hasn't prevented Reed from playing in every game and fulfilling his role as Baltimore's most lethal weapon.
``Ed will probably go down as one of the best safeties every to play because of the way he's changed the game,'' Houshmandzadeh said. ``When Ed came into the game, safeties weren't getting big deals. Safeties weren't big playmakers. When Ed came into the league all that changed, and I think it was because of him.''
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