OWINGS MILLS — Hobbled and carried off the field at the end of the Baltimore Ravens’ 20-13 AFC divisional round playoff win over the Houston Texans, free safety Ed Reed should be fine this week.
In the final minutes, Reed twisted his left ankle after a rough landing that followed his fourth pass deflection of the game.
One day later, though, the ankle wasn’t bothering Reed much and X-rays confirmed no major damage was done as the Ravens prepare for Sunday’s AFC championship game against the New England Patriots.
“Ed looks like he’s all right with the ankle,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “Everything’s come up OK, as far as the X-rays.”
Reed downplayed the severity of the injury Sunday.
In obvious pain after he fell on his shoulder, which has bothered him along with a nerve impingement in his neck this season, Reed intercepted his eighth pass all-time in the playoffs. That’s more than any current NFL player.
Reed, 33, has had issues tackling late in the season, but held up Sunday.
“My shoulder actually held up, I was just hitting guys,” Reed said. “Better tackling game than I had in the last couple ones, been getting a little criticism on that, but it comes with the territory.”
Reed intercepted three passes during the regular season, but chalked that up to quarterbacks avoiding his territory.
“The picks haven’t been coming because they don’t throw my way as much,” Reed said. “I got my hand on two or three before that and didn’t bring them home. It hasn’t been like they’ve been trying in my zone. You’ve got to watch the football game and understand what’s going on.
“I missed a couple tackles leading up to this game. It happens. It’s part of the game. I’m also getting old. At one point, I won’t be up here. You’ll be interviewing another safety here in Baltimore.”
Inside linebackers Jameel McClain (sprained medial collateral ligament) and Brendon Ayanbadejo (strained right quadriceps) made it through the game without incident.
“Brendon and Jameel, they fought through theirs,” Harbaugh said. “They were right to the last minute decisions, and they came out of it OK.”
Asked about offensive tackle Michael Oher, who had his knee wrapped up after the game, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who suffered minor leg injury, Harbaugh said, “Nothing serious.”
DRAFT REDUX: When Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski was in the NFL draft two years ago, the Ravens ultimately decided to shy away from him due to his back problems.
They didn’t doubt his talent, though.
And New England ultimately selected Gronkowski in the second round with the 42nd overall selection.
Gronkowski had a stellar season this year, catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“We were very interested in Rob,” Harbaugh said. “There were medical concerns, but we loved him, loved him as a player, loved him as a guy. We were pretty certain that he was going to be a good player, and he’s exceeded our expectations.”
CONFIDENCE BOOST: Wide receiver Lee Evans had a quiet regular season with the Ravens, catching only four passes after being acquired via a trade from the Buffalo Bills.
Finally healthy and beginning to build timing with quarterback Joe Flacco, Evans turned in a highlight-reel catch against the Texans.
He snagged a 30-yard pass from Flacco with his left hand, completing an acrobatic reception.
“It was good to make a play in a big game and give our offensive some momentum when we needed it,” said Evans, who caught four passes for 74 yards during the regular season. “I tried to be aggressive and go get the ball.”
A former first-round draft pick accustomed to registering big numbers for the Bills, Evans said the play boosts his confidence.
“Absolutely, I think the main thing is you need to continue to let the defense know you’re still a threat out there,” Evans said. “So, they have to account for you and we can be ad dynamic offense as we can be.”
The Ravens traded a fourth-round draft pick to Buffalo to acquire Evans, but he hurt his left ankle during the first game of the season.
“We would have liked for Lee to be involved with us, obviously, all the way through,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something that we’d like to see as we go forward here, trying to get that done. We’re not going to stop trying to get that done.
“Seeing that play get made, you get excited. You say, ‘Hey you know what? He’s certainly capable of making those plays.’ We’ve seen him make them his whole career. I think it brought a smile to everybody’s face. We’ll be looking forward to more of that.”
UNDERDOGS: With the top-seeded New England Patriots installed as a seven-point favorite, the Ravens aren’t being predicted by most to win this game.
The Ravens defeated New England 33-14 during a playoff game two years ago.
However, they have won only one of seven games against the Patriots in the series. “We like being the underdog,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “We’re used to it. I think we handle it better. Psychologically, I don’t really know why, but I think we do. Should we be? I don’t know. Obviously, it’s their place. They’re the No. 1 seed, they have earned it. And they are one of the top offenses in the league. They deserve to be the top team. I am an underdog myself, so I love it.”
TOUGH CALL: The possibility looms of another Harbaugh Bowl.
If the Ravens defeat the Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers beat the New York Giants, then John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh would square off in the Super Bowl. The Ravens beat the 49ers earlier this season on Thanksgiving.
What will their parents do Sunday?
Jack Harbaugh indicated in a radio interview that he and his wife, Jackie, might watch the games at home rather than travel to the AFC or NFC championship games.
“It’s pretty neat,” Harbaugh said. “I’m proud of him, and he’s proud of what we’re doing. And our parents are pretty fired-up. They’ve got a tough decision. They’re at home, they’d have a place to stay. So, they will probably go out there, I guess.”
When it was suggested that the parents could each attend one of their sons’ games, Harbaugh said, “Maybe that’s what they are going to do. We’ll have to see.”
NO PENALTIES: Years removed from being one of the more penalized teams in the game, the Ravens didn’t draw a single flag against the Texans.
That’s unprecedented in franchise history.
“I think our guys understand how to direct their passion really well into football, and that’s what they’ve done a great job of throughout the season,” Harbaugh said. “It’s critically important. To me, it’s emotional smarts.
“It’s playing smart football. It’s understanding when to be aggressive and when not to be. Basically, it’s between the whistles, and the rest of it doesn’t matter.”
Harbaugh said he didn’t notice anything on the game video that was an obvious penalty.
“Not really, he said. “There might be something that’s close, but nothing really blatantly callable. There were a couple of things we might send it; there are a couple of things they might send in, but I thought it was a well-officiated and a well-played game on both sides.”
‘GREATEST’: When he was the Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary coach after coaching special teams for most of his career, Harbaugh was recommended to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti after Brian Billick was fired.
Harbaugh has a ton of admiration for what the Annapolis native has done in New England.
“I just respect Bill Belichick as a coach and as a man,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s the greatest coach in our league right now, and that’s proven. And that’s why you get so excited to have an opportunity to play against a guy as a coach. What he stands for as a coach and the way he puts his team together and all that, you admire it.
“And then he’s always treated me well over the years. He’s always been at the top of the profession, and when somebody in that position treats a younger guy well, you certainly appreciate that.”
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh praised the Ravens’ fans. “I just wanted to comment on the amazing connection with the fans that has happened,” he said. “Obviously, it’s been a long-term relationship. Our fans were right in there fighting with the team the whole way. When you go out in the community, I went to basketball practice on Friday night for my daughter’s team, and our families are in the community all the time, schools and things, the incredible excitement that people have for this football team is just so awe-inspiring. It is really cool. We feel it, and we appreciate it and love being swept up in it.” … Kicker Billy Cundiff has made three field goals in a row since returning from a left calf injury, booting kicks from 48 and 44 yards against the Texans. “The field goals were big,” Harbaugh said. “They were tough kicks, windy conditions, and they weren’t that short either. Billy came up big. He did a nice job for us. Points, obviously, were a premium, so that was good.” … Cornerback Chris Carr was a healthy scratch Sunday. He’ll likely be needed, though, this week against the Patriots. “Normally, Chris is up,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, Chris is a big part of what we’re doing, especially when we play teams that throw the ball a lot. So that could be a big factor this week. We put an extra defensive lineman up this week because of the type of offense we were playing. Special teams was a part of that decision, too.”