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BALTIMORE — Corey Ivy eventually delivered the final word in what initially appeared to be a losing argument.
Thrust into a starting role for the first time in two years because starter Samari Rolle was sidelined with an undisclosed illness, the Baltimore Ravensâ€™ diminutive cornerback contributed a few key plays during a 26-23 victory Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals.
Although the Cardinalsâ€™ potent, imposing receiving tandem of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald combined for 19 receptions and 266 yards and two touchdowns, Ivy came up big when it counted the most.
The 5-foot-9, 188-pound defensive back prevented Bryant Johnson from securing Kurt Warner’s third-down fade pass into the end zone on the Cardinalsâ€™ final, game-tying drive. Earlier, he had a critical fumble recovery and recorded the Ravensâ€™ lone sack.
â€œThey came to me kind of late in the week and told me he was sick,â€ Ivy said of Rolle, who didnâ€™t practice Thursday or Friday. â€œSo whenever your number is called, you try to uphold the tradition of the Ravensâ€™ defense, go out there and play like a starter. They had confidence in me.
â€œMy defensive backs coach, Dennis Thurman, came up to me before the game and told me he had all the confidence in the world in me. That gives me a sense that he has my back. We got a much-needed victory."
Ivy took the football away from the 6-3, 226-pound Fitzgerald while being run over on a 27-yard reception. That set up a 43-yard Matt Stover field goal in the third quarter.
â€œWe work on fumble drills every day during practice,â€ Ivy said. â€œHe was carrying the ball kind of loose. I saw the opportunity, and I just snatched it from him.â€
Rolle was on the sidelines during the game, but wasnâ€™t available for comment afterward.
Ravens coach Brian Billick didnâ€™t elaborate on what was bothering Rolle, but indicated he should be available for next weekâ€™s game against the Cleveland Browns.
â€œIt was just something he had to deal with,â€ Billick said. â€œIt wasnâ€™t prudent to put him on the field, dehydration and all that medication stuff. We hope to have him back next week.â€
INJURY UPDATE: Tight end Todd Heap incurred what team officials described as a mild concussion on a fierce hit by Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. Heap expressed optimism about his chances of playing next week even though a concussion typically keeps a player out for at least one game.
â€œI took a good shot, but I feel a lot better now,â€ Heap said. â€œHe gave me a good one and I felt it for a little while. Iâ€™m not real certain what happened after that, but I did kind of woke up enough to see that I did make that catch.
â€œI had a little tingling before, but thatâ€™s all gone away now. The doctors checked me out and said I was good to go.â€
Ravens quarterback Steve McNair was replaced in the fourth quarter by backup Kyle Boller because of concerns about a nagging groin pull, but emphasized that he could have continued to play.
â€œI didnâ€™t want to put myself in harmâ€™s way,â€ McNair said. â€œWe werenâ€™t trying to go out there and aggravate it. They wanted me to rest it because we had a big lead. Now I can go into next week fresh and be ready to play.â€
When asked if he would definitely play next week, McNair replied: â€œYes, of course."
HURRICANE: Ravens running back Willis McGahee outdid fellow University of Miami football alum Edgerrin James. McGahee rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries as Baltimore limited James, the NFCâ€™s leading rusher, to 57 yards on 10 carries. James gained 27 yards on one carry.
â€œI donâ€™t even look at it like that,â€ McGahee said of a personal competition with James.
McGahee averaged 4.7 yards per carry, breaking several tackles. Plus, he had a 37-yard run in the first quarter that marks his longest gain since joining the team. In three games, McGahee has rushed for 272 yards on 66 carries for a 4.1 average.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to get a lot of yards after contact," McGahee said. "Thatâ€™s what we stress: try to get three yards or better.â€
BACK IN STRIDE: Wide receiver Mark Clayton had been hampered by toe and ankle injuries during the first two games, but appeared to regain his old form Sunday.
He caught a season-high five passes for 34 yards.
â€œIt was great to see Clayton,â€ said receiver Derrick Mason, who caught eight passes or 79 yards. â€œNow, weâ€™re at full strength.â€
Clayton said he didnâ€™t feel any lingering effects from his injuries.
â€œI was able to cut and run my routes the way I wanted to,â€ Clayton said. â€œI think I was close to getting free a couple of times.â€
QUIET DEBUT: Dwan Edwards started in place of injured defensive end Trevor Pryce, but didnâ€™t register a tackle.
â€œI feel I did well when I was in there,â€ Edwards said. â€œI feel like I did my responsibilities even through it wasnâ€™t a big stat game.â€
Meanwhile, rookie outside linebacker Antwan Barnes hit the quarterback once while operating as the situational pass rusher. He drew a key holding penalty late in the game.
â€œOverall, I did pretty good,â€ Barnes said. â€œThere were a couple of questionable holding calls that they didnâ€™t call.â€
MILESTONE: It was a momentous game for kicker Matt Stover. Stover, 39, hit the 13th game-winning kick of his career. With four field goals and two extra points, he also passed Norm Johnson to rank fifth on the NFLâ€™s all-time scoring list with 1,745 career points.
Stover has made 416 career field goals, third-most in league history.
â€œIt means Iâ€™m old,â€ Stover said. â€œIâ€™ve been kicking a long time. I still want the ball, I still want that kick.
â€œOnce that leaves you, you need to get out of the game. When you see the smiles on the faces in that other room, thatâ€™s fun.â€
ON THE SPOT: Rookie return specialist Yamon Figursâ€™ 75-yard punt return for a touchdown was the seventh longest in franchise history. Figurs has replaced B.J. Sams, whoâ€™s out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
â€œThe guys told me youâ€™ve just got to keep ready because anything can happen,â€ Figurs said. â€œItâ€™s part of pro football. People get hurt, people go down and youâ€™ve just got to step up.â€
QUICK HITS: The Ravens deactivated offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe), Rolle (illness), Pryce (broken wrist), tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained ankle), kicker Rhys Lloyd, quarterback Troy Smith and running backs Mike Anderson and Cory Ross. â€¦ Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett took exception with a debatable personal foul called on Wilson. â€œI had a real good view, and I donâ€™t want to say what Iâ€™m thinking,â€ Dockett said. â€œThe coaches wouldnâ€™t like that. All I can say is Adrian did what heâ€™s supposed to do and Iâ€™ll leave it at that. â€¦ Cardinals wide receiver Sean Morey partially blocked Sam Kochâ€™s 11-yard punt in the fourth quarter. â€¦ For the second consecutive time this year, McNair lost a fumble. He was stripped by Dockett on a sack with Bert Berryâ€™s recovery leading to Neil Rackersâ€™ 40-yard field goal. â€¦ Baltimore has won its past seven home games, including 27 of its past 32. â€¦ The Ravens improved to 3-1 against the Cardinals. â€¦ Baltimore is 15-5-1 at home against NFC opponents. â€¦ The Ravens are now 50-1 under Billick when leading by at least 14 points. … Mason has caught 23 passes for 209 yards and a 9.1 average.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.