- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens’ big-play defense did it again.

With the Cleveland Browns on the verge of forcing overtime, Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed entered the NFL record book with the longest interception in league history.

Reed intercepted quarterback Jeff Garcia’s deflected pass in the end zone and returned it 106 yards with 26 seconds left to seal the Ravens’ 27-13 victory over the Browns last night before 69,781 at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Reed’s fourth interception of the season and his first for a touchdown came at a good time. On second-and-goal at the Ravens’ 5, Garcia tried to hit tight end Aaron Shea on a slant over the middle. With middle linebacker Ray Lewis draped over Shea, the ball deflected off Shea’s hands toward Reed, who scooped up the ball just before it hit the turf and went untouched down the right sideline.

“I didn’t know if it was tipped or not,” Reed said. “I reacted and just caught it.”

“Huge. Huge. He just seems to always be around [the ball] when you need it,” coach Brian Billick said. “He kind of waited until the end to do it. It would have saved my heart a little bit if he had done it earlier.”

The win was vital for the Ravens (5-3) to remain within striking distance of the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers, who improved to 7-1 yesterday with an impressive 27-3 victory over the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.

Ravens star running back Jamal Lewis, who was suspended for the Ravens’ past two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy when he helped set up a drug deal four years ago, finished with 81 yards on 22 carries in his first game back.

Jamal Lewis scored the Ravens’ only offensive touchdown of the game on a 2-yard plunge up the middle with 7:03 left in the game. The Ravens then converted a 2-point conversion when quarterback Kyle Boller, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 142 yards and no interceptions, connected with Clarence Moore for a 20-13 lead.

Lewis’ touchdown was set up by a shanked punt from the Browns’ Derrick Frost. Punting out of his own end zone, Frost’s 7-yard punt gave the Ravens the ball at the Browns’ 9. From there, Lewis did the rest.

The last time these teams met, the Browns shut down Lewis, holding the Ravens’ workhorse to a season-low 57 yards on 20 carries in the Browns’ 20-3 season-opening win.

The Ravens received an early wake-up call last night when reserve wide receiver Richard Alston returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. Alston, a first-year pro out of East Carolina, became the first Browns player in 14 years to take the opening kick back for a touchdown.

Alston’s return was the ninth-longest in Browns history and the first return the Ravens have allowed this season.

Faced with an early 7-0 deficit, the Ravens struggling offense was under pressure to answer the Browns quick touchdown. On their second possession of the game, the Ravens put points on the scoreboard with a 44-yard Stover field goal that made it 7-3.

Baltimore’s first score of the game was helped by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Browns defensive end Kenard Lang after Boller completed a 9-yard pass to Kevin Johnson. The additional penalty put the ball on the Browns’ 28, where the drive stalled.

Stover was the Ravens offense in the first half. He booted four field goals — 44, 39, 43, and 36 yards — and the Ravens led 12-10 at halftime. The Ravens outgained the Browns 155 to 69 yards in the first half.

Garcia fumbled at his own 48 when Ravens outside linebacker Adalius Thomas stripped him from behind on a first-down play with 1:14 before halftime and the Browns leading 10-9. Ravens third-year defensive end Anthony Weaver recovered Garcia’s fumble.

With enough time to take their first lead of the game, Boller moved the Ravens 30 yards in eight plays in 1:04. Boller completed four of five passes for 26 yards and generated two first downs. Stover’s 36-yard field goal split the uprights as time expired in the first half.

Note — Ravens nickel back Deion Sanders suffered a toe injury on is left foot in the first half and did not return to the game.

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