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BALTIMORE — Samari Rolle didnâ€™t want to label his pivotal interception as sweet redemption even if his smile in the locker room seemed to reveal that personal feeling.
The Baltimore Ravensâ€™ oft-criticized cornerback rebounded after allowing a third-quarter touchdown pass to speedy Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans, intercepting a critical fourth-quarter pass to help preserve a 19-7 victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium that clinches a first-round bye.
Rolle allowed a 44-yard touchdown as he bit on an inside fake and was unable to stop Evans from streaking past him despite committing an illegal-contact penalty.
â€œThings happen, communication and that type of thing, but Iâ€™ve been playing long enough to know that and I donâ€™t let that stuff bother me,â€ Rolle said.
â€œThereâ€™s no one in the stands that will come down here and take my job, so I donâ€™t worry about it.â€
One quarter after getting beat deep for a score that closed the Ravensâ€™ lead to 9-7, Rolle picked off Bills quarterback J.P. Losman in the end zone for his third interception of the season.
â€œHe didnâ€™t have a lot of room and I read his route,â€ Rolle said. â€œOne time I jumped one and he kept going and you have to pick and choose when you are going to jump. Iâ€™m just glad we won.â€
Rolle has been beaten for several touchdowns this season, including two in a loss to the Carolina Panthers.
However, the former Pro Bowl cornerback has played with much more confidence over the past several weeks and hadnâ€™t allowed a score since a win over the New Orleans Saints.
â€œSamari deserves a lot of credit for taking the blame for stuff this year when a lot of times it wasnâ€™t even his fault,â€ linebacker Bart Scott said. â€œHe took a lot of slack from the media and the fans and he never pointed the finger at anyone when he could have. He actually had a great season, but people donâ€™t really seem to know that. We appreciate what he does for us."
MORE INVOLVED: Days after complaining that he wasnâ€™t involved enough in the offense, wide receiver Derrick Mason caught five passes for 30 yards. All of his production came in the opening drive of the first quarter, though.
Mason’s output surpassed the four catches he had in his previous two games combined.
â€œYou always want to feel like youâ€™re part of the offense and you want to get in the rhythm early,â€ Mason said. â€œItâ€™s very hard in the third and fourth quarter to now, all of a sudden, start to get into the rhythm. As a player in that skill position, it’s very pivotal for a guy to be involved early.â€
AIRBORNE: Tight end Todd Heap gave the crowd a thrill and the coaching staff a gasp when he flipped into the air on a fourth-quarter reception.
â€œI donâ€™t even think about it,â€ Heap said. â€œI was just trying to get extra yards and not get my ankles taken out. Itâ€™s fun for the crowd and not fun for the coaches. Me, Iâ€™m just playing and reacting.â€
SHUTDOWN: The Ravensâ€™ defense limited Bills running back Willis McGahee to 23 yards on 11 carries for his lowest output of the season when he carried the ball at least 10 times. He sounded extremely frustrated afterward.
â€œWe played a tough defense and we lost all confidence in the run,â€ said McGahee, who coughed up a fumble on a hit by middle linebacker Ray Lewis. â€œI took care of my part. I did what I had to do to go out and perform, I did my part.â€
TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens reported no significant injuries although wide receiver Mark Clayton left the game early. Team spokesman Kevin Byrne said heâ€™s dealing with flu symptoms.
Meanwhile, assistant special teams coach John Fassel played hurt on the sidelines two days after injuring his elbow along with other bumps and bruises when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle near the teamâ€™s training complex.
INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe) and offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin), and they were replaced by Adam Terry and Chris Chester, respectively. Baltimore also sat out cornerbacks Jamaine Winborne and David Pittman, running back P.J. Daniels, fullback Nick Luchey and wide receivers Devard Darling and Clarence Moore.
QUICK HITS: Fullback Ovie Mughelli recorded career-highs with five catches and 49 receiving yards. â€¦ Running back Mike Anderson eclipsed the 4,000 rushing yard milestone, gaining 32 yards on two carries including a long run of 30 yards. â€¦ New special-teams standout Alex Bannisterâ€™s speed is a major factor in kick coverage, registering two tackles. â€¦ Pro Bowl alternate special-teams ace Gary Stills recovered return specialist Cory Rossâ€™ second-half fumble. Ross finished with just 13 yards on three punt returns for a 3.3 average. He returned a kickoff 26 yards, averaging 19.5 yards. â€¦ With four field goals, Matt Stover finished with 121 points for his third-highest scoring season ever. â€¦ The win boosts Baltimore to 10-2 against the AFC, a new franchise record. â€¦ Baltimore is 7-1 at home this season, tying the 2003 season for their best record ever. â€¦ Ravens coach Brian Billick won his 75th regular-season game and 80th overall, becoming the 14th active head coach with at least 80 career victories. … Steve McNairâ€™s first-quarter completion to Mason put him in some exclusive company. He joins Hall of Fame selections Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young as the third player to post 30,000 career passing yards and 3,500 rushing yards.
â€œWish I was around for the first 29,500, whatever it is,â€ Billick said. â€œHeâ€™s an incredible guy to be around.â€ â€¦ Billick didnâ€™t want to look back on last yearâ€™s 6-10 campaign that nearly cost him his job before team owner Steve Bisciotti decided to retain him under a change-or-go mandate: â€œCouple of lifetimes ago.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland