OWINGS MILLS – Lardarius Webb darted in front of Houston Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson, reading the eyes of rookie quarterback T.J. Yates to intercept an errant pass.
The turnover led directly to a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin during the Baltimore Ravens’ 20-13 AFC divisional round playoff victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
And the Ravens’ top cornerback would pick off Yates once more in the fourth quarter on a throw intended over the deep middle to wide receiver Kevin Walter.
Webb tied a Ravens playoff record with two interceptions, sharing the mark with free safety Ed Reed and cornerback Duane Starks.
And Webb accomplished the feat through the continued guidance of Reed, receiving a bit of tough love from his mentor over the past few games.
“He’s an awesome player,” Reed said. “I’ve actually been very hard on him the last couple of weeks because I know how good he wants to be, and I know what he can accomplish. For him to come out and make the plays that he did was awesome.”
In the locker room after the game, Webb joked that Reed occasionally angers him with his constructive criticism to the point where he wants to tell him to leave him alone.
However, Webb actually appreciates the advice from the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
It was Reed who Webb wanted to be like when he was a safety in college at Nicholls State in Louisiana.
Now, Webb and Reed are colleagues on the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense with Webb leading the defense with five interceptions during the regular season.
Reed intercepted a pass from Yates in the fourth quarter and joked that Webb let him borrow his hands Sunday.
“Give them to him?” Webb said. “He can have them. He made the big play at the end. I just seen him drop two picks, and I’d never seen it. I gave him my hands, mine were stickier, so he came in and made a pick. I said, ‘Give me my hands back because I’m going to have to get me one.’
“It’s a privilege to be his teammate. The dude is amazing, man. He’s taught me so much about this game and life. Every time you bring up Ed Reed, I’m going to tell you how I feel because he’s helped me out so much.”
Webb didn’t allow a touchdown pass this season and was ranked as one of best cornerbacks statistically, according to Pro Football Focus.
His understanding of the game has improved markedly, getting to the point where he’s able to bait quarterbacks into mistakes.
That was the case Sunday against Yates.
“He made his throws a little light, or he didn’t get to read his throws, so it made the interceptions easy on me,” Webb said. “Hey, if you study film, you can cover anybody. But we were just playing ball out there, communicating and everybody knew exactly what we were doing.
“The first one, Andre just ran an out route, a nonchalant out route, and I jumped it. The second one, I was inside, and he threw the ball inside. I just caught the ball.”
Webb ranked sixth on the defense with 68 tackles and led the defense with 20 pass deflections, also forcing one fumble and recording one sack.
All of his numbers were career-highs, including returning 30 punts for 301 yards for a 10.0 average per return.
“I just think Lardarius just gets better all the time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Like every player, there are ups and downs, and they get attacked and things like that. He’s becoming a really solid, fundamentally sound corner to go with his great talent. And that’s a great combination.
"To me, that’s what makes for a potentially great football player. He came up with two huge plays and a lot of other really solid plays in the game. Our pass coverage was excellent. It wasn’t perfect. There were things out there that got open at times, but it was really excellent.”
Drafted in the third round three years ago, Webb returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown against the New York Jets.
Doubling as a punt returner, Webb returned one 68 yards for a score against the Cleveland Browns.
“Lardarius Webb can be better,” Webb said. “I’m telling you this: Lardarius Webb can be way better. I’d hate for ya’ll to see that Webb, but I’m trying to get there, man. It’s still a work in progress. That Webb’s going to have to come out soon.”