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— When the Baltimore
Ravens drafted wide receiver Mark Clayton in the first round in the spring of 2005, they had visions of an athletic target capable of stretching secondaries past their limits. Now, the Ravens are beginning to realize dividends on their investment in the former
Oklahoma All-American selection.
In the Ravensâ€™ 20-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, Clayton caught an 87-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Steve McNair in the third quarter that marks the longest play of his career and McNairâ€™s longest pass ever.
â€œMark is a gifted athlete, and Steve is doing a hell of a job getting the ball to him,â€ Ravens coach Brian Billick said. The budding connection between McNair and Clayton produced five catches for a game-high 112 yards.
Their communication was the key to outwitting safety Greg Wesley and cornerback Ty Law for the biggest play of the game. The Ravens set up the touchdown by having Clayton lull them to sleep with curl routes before striking deep on a double-move.
â€œThey just saw that play before,â€ Clayton said. â€œWe had run a couple of curls previous to that play. It was the same move, the same depth and then I took off.â€
Clayton has caught a career-high 57 passes for 763 yards and four touchdowns.
â€œBringing me in, Iâ€™m sure they wanted me to make plays for the organization and be ready when the time comes,â€ Clayton said. â€œIt feels right, the timing, how itâ€™s going.â€
Claytonâ€™s chemistry with McNair has contributed heavily to his improvement.
â€œSince the first time that he got here, I have always looked up to him,â€ Clayton said. â€œJust seeing his cool, calm presence on the field, we take off of that. Heâ€™s a great leader and weâ€™ll follow him all the way to the top.â€
GAME PLAN: Billick couldnâ€™t resist responding to criticism after he gave his players five days off following a 13-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Their fresh legs appeared to be a positive factor against the Chiefs.
"According to you all, I gave them too much time off," Billick said. "Obviously, they were well rested."
In a sharp contrast to Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, McNair was sharp and efficient as he completed 21 of 27 passes for 283 yards and no interceptions for a 122.7 passer rating.
"Coming off a rest like that, you’ve got to take advantage of it," said McNair, who hasnâ€™t thrown an interception in four games for the longest streak of his career. "I wanted my arm to be fresh, and it was."
IN YOUR FACE: Following an unnecessary roughness flag for tossing Chiefs running back Larry Johnson out of bounds, defensive end Terrell Suggs insulted Johnson by reversing his trademark â€˜Dynastyâ€™ sign with a two-handed gesture. Johnson adopted the gesture from his days as an All-American at PennState.
â€œI was throwing it down to disrespect him,â€ said Suggs after making a diamond-shaped symbol made popular by rapper Jay-Z. â€œIf heâ€™s got a problem with that, then he or Jay-Z can call me.
"Let him know that it was the utmost disrespect, and I was trying to set the tone to let him know that I was going to be in his grill all day.â€
Suggs registered a team-high nine tackles, recording a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Johnson took issue with the taunting without naming names.
â€œI have a lot of respect for Ray Lewis, Iâ€™ve got a lot of respect for the other linebackers,â€ Johnson said. â€œWhen you give extra-curriculars after the play and stuff like that, you have to respect the runner now.
â€œYouâ€™re supposed to be the top-notch defense, and youâ€™ve got to try everything possible to take me out of the game and itâ€™s just not going to happen. Theyâ€™re a confident defense and you expect them to have a swagger about them to do anything they want and get away with it.â€
400 CLUB: Kicker Matt Stover booted his 400th career field goal, becoming only the fourth player in NFL history to do so. He joined Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen and John Carney.
300 CLUB: Tight end Todd Heap caught the 300th pass of his career in his 79th game to become the sixth-fastest tight end to hit that mark in NFL history, one game faster than Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome during his Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns.
PERSONNEL NOTICE: Keydrick Vincent returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous three games with a groin injury, replacing rookie Chris Chester. â€œIâ€™m a little bit rusty, but I got the job done and we got the win,â€ Vincent said.
Tight end Daniel Wilcox played for the first time since pulling his hamstring. â€œIt felt great to be back,â€ Wilcox said. â€œI feel blessed to be able to get back on the field.â€
INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated running backs Musa Smith (neck) and P.J. Daniels, fullback Nick Luchey, linebacker Dan Cody (knee), cornerback David Pittman, offensive guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison and wide receiver Devard Darling.
QUICK HITS: Former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro special-teams ace Gary Stills was a game captain along with Heap and Ray Lewis. â€¦ Billick won his 72nd regular-season game to surpass Don Shula as Baltimore
‘s all-time winningest NFL coach. â€¦ Linebacker Bart Scott delivered a thinly-veiled shot at the Cincinnati Bengals, who have endured severe off-field problems including eight arrests. â€œNo off-the-field crap like these other places,â€ Scott said. â€œWe do what we have to do and go home.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland