- - Sunday, January 15, 2012

BALTIMORE — Ed Reed walked to the postgame podium with his left ankle wrapped in tape.

The veteran Baltimore Ravens safety had just injured it while attempting to deflect a fourth down Hail Mary attempt from Houston quarterback T.J. Yates with about 20 seconds left to play. When Reed landed, he rolled his ankle, fell to the ground and grimaced.

After a few minutes, Reed was able to walk again. As he stepped up to the lectern, limping a bit, he was asked if the pain was eased by Baltimore scratching its way to a 20-13 win over Houston in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

“No, not at all, man,” Reed said with a laugh.

Reed has been criticized in recent weeks for missing tackles in Baltimore’s past four outings.

But against the Texans, Reed arguably put in his best performance of the season, recording a key interception and sacrificing his already-injured body for six tackles.

Reed, who adds an injured ankle to a nerve impingement in his shoulder, said he expects to be fine for next week’s AFC championship at New England.

“I’ll be all right,” Reed said. “I’ll get treatment, and I’ll be ready to go. I rolled my ankle, pinched it real bad or what-not. I was able to walk off at the end.”

In vintage fashion, the Ravens‘ defense, led by Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis (seven tackles), earned the win as Houston stifled Baltimore’s offense throughout the game. The Texans outgained the Ravens 315-227. But Baltimore was the beneficiary of four Houston turnovers, including Reed’s interception and two picks from cornerback Lardarius Webb.

With Houston near midfield at the 7:28 mark of the fourth quarter, Yates threw a pass down the seam intended for receiver Kevin Walter. Webb read the route and intercepted the pass.

“I was inside, and he threw the ball inside,” Webb said. “I just caught the ball.”

The Ravens were able to convert Webb’s interception into a 44-yard Billy Cundiff field goal to go up 20-13.

After Yates hit wideout Andre Johnson for gains of 18 and 16 yards on Houston’s following possession, he tossed a deep pass that Reed picked off at the Baltimore 4. The interception was the eighth of Reed’s career in the playoffs, which set an NFL postseason record.

Ed’s got great ball skills,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “He’s showed that for many years. That’s why he’s a prolific Pro Bowl player.”

Though Baltimore’s defense was able to capitalize on Houston’s mistakes (17 points off four turnovers), it still allowed Texans running back Arian Foster to run for 132 yards and a touchdown. Johnson also had a big day with 111 receiving yards.

“It’s fun to look at moral victories, but out there we didn’t get the win and it’s just extremely disappointing,” Foster said. “It’s hard to say at this point. We gave it our best shot, but the beautiful thing about this thing we have in Houston is that it can only go up from here.”

The Texans’ turnover woes began in the first quarter. Trailing 3-0, Baltimore punted to returner Jacoby Jones, who allowed the ball to take a bounce. He then tried to field it, only for the ball gto ricochet off his facemask. Williams tackled Jones, which allowed cornerback Jimmy Smith to recover the ball at the Houston 2-yard line.

Three plays later, quarterback Joe Flacco found third-string tight end Kris Wilson in the end zone on a play-action pass play. Flacco finished the game 14-of-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Later in the first quarter, Yates was trying to find Johnson on an out route. Webb jumped the route for his first interception. The play led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to receiver Anquan Boldin.

The Ravens were up 17-3 in the second quarter when Houston kicker Neil Rackers nailed a 33-yard try. Foster later ran for a 1-yard touchdown at the 4:52 mark, which cut Baltimore’s lead to 17-13.

With a chance to slice into Baltimore’s lead some more, Rackers missed a 50-yard attempt off the crossbar in the third quarter. Cundiff added the game’s final points with his 44-yarder in the fourth.

The Ravens will travel to New England next week with the winner going on to Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots crushed Denver 45-10 Saturday night.

For the Ravens to advance to their first Super Bowl since the 2000 season, Reed said they’ll need to play a lot better than they did Sunday.

“[They’re] probably still watching this interview now to see if they can pick up on something,” Reed joke. “We look forward to it. And I’m sure they are, too.”

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