BALTIMORE – The football hung in the air for a while after Haloti Ngata swatted it at the line of scrimmage, too long for Cory Redding to feel comfortable.
So, the Baltimore Ravens’ veteran defensive end leapt into the air to haul in the first interception of his career.
Redding’s fourth-quarter interception helped preserve the Ravens’ 30-24 victory Sunday over the New Orleans Saints, setting up Billy Cundiff’s 27-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining in the game.
"That’s why I went up to go get it," Redding said. "I jumped to get it that one because I didn’t want the opportunity to leave me. I had to capitalize."
Ngata spun around and got in the path of Brees’ pass, which was intended for wide receiver Robert Meachem.
"I just saw his eyes looking behind me, so I just kind of jumped up and tipped it," Ngata said. "It was perfect."
Redding joined the Ravens during the offseason after previous stints with the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.
This is the first winning team he has played on in the NFL.
And the interception was a key play for the Ravens.
"It was awesome," Redding said. "Made sure I got to the highest point so nobody could take the ball from me. It was awesome just to see that ball in the air and say, ‘You know what? I can get this ball,’ and prove to my coaches and teammates that I can catch. That was huge to get the ball back and give it to our offense and have a potential chance to score."
Redding’s teammates are just as happy for him that he gets to play for a winner after years of suffering on losing outfits, including the winless Lions from two years ago.
"It’s great to be on a winning team and I know it feels great to him," Ngata said. "Winning has been kind of foreign for him, but hopefully he can be here for a long time and we can keep this going."
The Ravens sacked Brees three times, forcing him to fumble twice.
"The main focus was the integrity of our rush lanes, stay disciplined," Redding said. "He’s not a really big, tall guy, so we have to get our hands up when that ball is thrown, and as long as we put some pressure on him, that was going to give ourselves a good chance to win this game, and that’s what we did. I believe we executed quite well."
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison used more of an attacking style this time.
"Yes, definitely more aggressive," he said. "We were able to get to him on some edges. Even on a four-man rush we were good. We mixed it up between pressure and coverage, and that was a lot more our style."
STREAK EXTENDED: Johnson extended his ironman streak of consecutive games to 111, the longest current streak in franchise history.
Johnson tied Peter Boulware for the longest in team history.
"They can’t get rid of me, man," said Johnson, who has endured painful back and shoulder injuries over the past two seasons. "I’m never leaving. I didn’t know about it, really, until someone came up to me. When I hit 100, they said something to me.
"Yeah, I’m prideful of it because I’ve played through a lot of injuries, dealt with a lot of crap. To always be on the field is a hard thing to do in the NFL. So, yeah, I’m prideful of it. Every year, there’s a new draft and they bring in new players so I’m always staying competitive. I would say the injuries are the toughest thing to get through."
Johnson recorded his first full sack of the season.
"Happy to get that monkey off my back," he said. "It’s been a crazy year for me, whatever. I just wish I could’ve gotten to the ball quicker, but he was able to roll over on it."
CHIPPINESS: It was a game where tempers flared with several shoving matches and arguments.
"When you have two bulldogs fighting in the ring, they’re going to go at it," Johnson said. "It was a chippy game, that’s how we like it."
Defensive back Cary Williams got into a shoving match with Saints defensive back Pierson Prioleau.
"We had a little spat before the play and he was over in our huddle," Williams said. "It wasn’t that special. It carried over to that play and there was a little jawing. It’s something that happens between the lines every game. As the game progressed, tempers flared and things like that.
"Everybody wanted to come out and prove something, and they definitely wanted to prove toughness. You’re playing against the Ravens who are known for toughness. They were talking all week in the paper about how they were going to out-physical us and all this other stuff, but games are never won in the newspaper."
Williams got annoyed that Prioleau was near the Ravens’ huddle.
"It just seemed real disrespectful, what he was saying to our coach when he told him to get back," Williams said. "It seemed like the ref just ignored it, so I just stood over there in front of him and let him know, ‘Hey, we’re in our huddle. We don’t want no problems with you, but if you want to bring a problem, we could bring that issue to you.’ That’s all it was, it wasn’t nothing serious."
Saints safety Darren Sharper, who’s known for trash-talking and was flagged once for a late hit, accused the Ravens of instigating.
"That’s them," he said. "They are a team that talks. They do more talking than most of the team’s in the league. They start that stuff. When you play them, you’ve got to say disciplined, and not get involved in that stuff."
FLACCO ANGERED: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was furious when no penalty was called when he was kneed by Saints defensive end Alex Brown after he was already down when he was sacked by Jimmy Wilkerson.
The Ravens seemed to respond to Flacco’s rare show of fire.
"I don’t know if they rallied around it," he said. "Everybody wants to say passion, I have my things on the sidelines sometimes. I don’t know that they always get caught, but apparently, this one did. I wasn’t too happy at the time. I feel like I was hit late."
Added running back Ray Rice: "Whenever you see Joe fired up, you’ve kind of got to say, ‘Joe’s fired up.’ He keeps it cool, and he maintains the balance, but I’ve seen him fired up before. I’ve seen him ready to go. We go as Joe goes."
Free safety Ed Reed was flagged for roughing the passer when he struck Brees in the head with a right forearm.
"Yeah, well I swung kind of hard," he said. "I thought I was going to be able to get the ball and wound up hitting his head and whatnot. So, those plays are going to happen, it’s football. You’ve just got to build from it, not make those mistakes and try to not do it, because we kept drives going."
For the most part, the Ravens seemed to avoid losing their cool.
It got a little testy towards the end there, but luckily, there was not a personal foul from us," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We were able to stay calm. Thankfully, we showed a little maturity out there when things got a little rough. We didn’t engage in any of that extracurricular stuff. Proud of my team for that."
DICKSON CATCHES FIRST TOUCHDOWN: Starting in place of Todd Heap due to his pulled right hamstring, rookie tight end Ed Dickson caught his first NFL touchdown pass.
Dickson scored on a 34-yard pass from Flacco when he delayed his pattern by pretending to stay in to block.
He caught the ball over the middle and ran through a couple of Saints to get into the end zone in the first quarter.
"We put that play in this week," Dickson said. "It was a delay route, it’s a designed delay for the tight end. We knew they would add on blitzes if they saw us blocking. It was a great play call by Cam Cameron and a great job by Joe of selling it and getting it to me.
"He came out late. I was wide open and I saw the end zone and there was only one defender back. I had to go either around him or through him, so I ended up going around him and I was able to reach the end zone."
The third-round draft pick from Oregon was unable to retrieve the ball from his first NFL score.
"I got to find that ball, I had to get on the PAT team," Dickson said. "I wasn’t really worried about it. The biggest thing was the victory, I’m happy for a victory of this magnitude."
KNOCKED OUT: Rookie wide receiver David Reed left the game with a concussion and didn’t return. Reed suffered the concussion on a kickoff return, an 18-yard return.
Named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week against the Houston Texans after his franchise-record 103-yard kickoff return, Reed dealt with the usual symptoms from a concussion. That included a headache and wooziness.
Reed was replaced by Jalen Parmele, who averaged 26.3 yards on three kickoff returns with a long return of 38 yards.
"It’s natural," Parmele said. "I’ve done it before. I was kind of surprised. It’s a matter of getting in the right mindset. I wasn’t expecting to be used."
ANOTHER FALSE START: Offensive tackle Michael Oher committed his eighth false start of the season, his 11th penalty overall.
He was hit with a penalty in the second quarter. It looked like a Saints defensive lineman crossed into the neutral zone, but Oher may have moved first.
"I don’t know," Oher said. "It’s just something you’ve got to get corrected, something you’ve got to focus on. .. I got to stay in there. It’s something I’ve got to deal with."
BIG DROP FOR MCCLAIN: Two-time Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain dropped a routine pass in the right flat that should have gone for a touchdown.
Instead of seven points, the Ravens wound up having to settle for a field goal.
"Great ball by Joe, I just dropped it," McClain said. "I’ve made tougher catches before. I just kept going."
McClain was sick for most of the week with a stomach virus.
"I’m still fighting it now," he said. "I’m not 100 percent. I had a stomach virus from something I ate."
BACK AT GUARD: The Ravens went back to their usual offensive line configuration one week after experimenting with Oniel Cousins at right tackle, Marshal Yanda at right guard and Chris Chester at blocking tight end.
Against New Orleans, Yanda was back at right tackle with Chester back in the lineup at right guard and Tony Moll substituting as a blocking tight end.
"It was great," Chester said. "I got to play guard and play quite a bit. I’m glad to get that opportunity. The No. 1 priority is for me to help the team.
"Whatever role they see me doing that, I’m going to accept it and do it well. I’m going to do it to the best of my opportunity. I’m glad to play some guard."
STALLWORTH SCRATCHED: Wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth was a surprise healthy scratch.
Stallworth had played in every game this season since returning from a broken foot.
Stallworth was displeased with the decision considering he was playing against the Saints, the team that drafted him with the 13th overall pick of the first round.
"No, I wasn’t limping at all," Stallworth said when asked if he was hurt. "I’m healthier now than I’ve been since 2007. It was a coach’s decision. I’m not going to lie and say I was happy about it. Definitely not happy. You always want to play, especially in a game like this, against my former team, the team that drafted me.
"This was the only game I was looking forward to throughout the whole season. And not to get to play, yeah, it’s disappointing. But we won the game, that’s the most important thing. That was the goal from the start of the week, not whether I was playing or not."
With the Ravens going with a run-first offense Sunday, Stallworth’s presence wasn’t needed until Reed got hurt.
"I won’t get into all that," Stallworth said when asked what the coaches told him about his status. "You can talk to the coaches about that and whatever they give you."
RARE PLAYING TIME: Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe escaped from the doghouse Sunday.
He was active for the first time in four games.
Ellerbe recorded a sack and had six tackles, one for a loss.
"It felt great, man," Ellerbe said. "It’s nice to be out there again. I was rusty because I hadn’t been out there so long. I just want to make the most of it and stay up."
QUICK HITS: Johnson attributed the Ravens’ energy to lighter practices after the Monday night game. "Yeah, they took care of us," he said. "Last week was tough. Coach Harbaugh was really smart. He knew we played a lot of snaps, knew we needed to be fresh for this game, knew it was a short week, and he lightened up a little bit. We really got after it, so it was a good thing. Would’ve been a bad thing if he had lightened up and we would’ve come out and laid an egg. Then, that’s back on us. He did what he thought was right, and I thought it was a great move." … Besides Stallworth, the Ravens scratched safety Tom Zbikowski (back), fullback Jason McKie, linebacker Jason Phillips, guard Bryan Mattison, Heap, nose guard Brandon McKinney and defensive tackle Lamar Divens. .. .The Saints deactivated wide receiver Courtney Roby, running back Chris Ivory (hamstring), cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, offensive tackle Charles Brown and tight end David Thomas. … Wide receiver Derrick Mason caught one pass for 42 yards and is now tied with Heap for the all-time franchise record for receptions with 464 catches in his sixth season. Mason went over 700 receiving yards for the 11th consecutive season. … The Ravens are plus-two in turnover margin for the season and are 54-1 when posting a plus-two ratio. … The Ravens wore their all-black uniforms for the first time since a 2007 loss to the New England Patriots. They improved to 4-2 in that uniform combination. … The Ravens are now 15-6 against teams that play their home games in a dome or retractable roof stadium. Baltimore is 11-4 in those games in November and December and 12-2 against NFC teams that play indoors. … The defense has allowed only 24 points in the third quarter this season, the fewest in the league. They’ve gone 23 consecutive games without allowing a touchdown in the third quarter. … Joe Flacco set a career-high with his 23rd touchdown pass of the season, topping his 21 touchdown passes from last season. It’s his eighth 100-plus rating of the season (112.9). … The Ravens have won nine of their past 10 home games. During those games, Flacco has thrown 19 touchdowns with just one interception. … In his last 10 games this season, Flacco has a 106.3 passer rating, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions. … Williams played more than usual in the dime package. "I felt real comfortable in the defense much how I was in the preseason when I’m out there with the guys," he said. "It’s like practice I feel comfortable around them and trust those guys and they trust me."