Ravens reverse trend by pulling away in 4th qtr

The Baltimore Ravens appear to have finally mastered the art of

expanding a lead in the fourth quarter to seal a victory.

Of course, applying the proper finishing touch is much easier

when facing a struggling opponent with a rusty quarterback.

After blowing a fourth-quarter lead in three of its previous

four games, Baltimore scored 17 points over the final six minutes

Sunday against Carolina to turn a seven-point edge into a 37-13. Ed

Reed and Ray Lewis put the game out of reach by producing

touchdowns off interceptions of journeyman Brian St. Pierre.

”Obviously, our two big players came up with two huge plays,”

coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

”It was just a matter of time before those guys make those

plays,” tight end Todd Heap said. ”It was a pretty opportune time

for both Ray and Ed (to have) back-to-back interceptions to score

touchdowns. Huge point in the game for us, when we really needed

it.

”It speaks a lot about our defense. It speaks a lot about those

two guys.”

The manner in which the Ravens closed the game was particularly

satisfying because it came after a loss to Atlanta in which the

Falcons moved 80 yards in 45 seconds to pull out a last-minute

win.

”That’s something we want to do every week,” Harbaugh said of

the finish in Carolina. ”We talked about it in Atlanta: Let’s get

off the field, win this thing and close it out.”

It didn’t happen against the Falcons. Nor did it happen against

New England and Buffalo – Baltimore frittered away a 10-point

cushion in the fourth quarter of both games and was forced to play

overtime.

Against Carolina, the entire defense seemed focused on making

the outcome of this game different.

”You watch the one interception Ray got, Jarret Johnson got a

big hit on the quarterback that forced the ball to come out real

fast,” Harbaugh said. ”It’s kind of a team effort. You look at

Ed’s interception: Our linebackers were underneath that thing,

forcing him to throw the ball over the top and into Ed’s hands.

Those were good plays.”

Harbaugh noted that the quarter began with St. Pierre connecting

with David Gettis for an 80-yard touchdown to get Carolina (1-9)

within a touchdown.

”I was disappointed in the touchdown pass. That would have been

part of closing the game out in the fourth quarter, too,” he said.

”We busted a coverage back there. That’s something we need to work

on.”

Overall, it was hardly a sparkling performance.

”We were all disappointed we didn’t play a dominant game, but

we’re happy with the win,” Harbaugh said. ”I think you take your

victories where they come within the game, but by no means are we

satisfied with the way we played.”

Despite earning few style points, Baltimore (7-3) remained tied

for first place in the AFC North with Pittsburgh with six weeks

remaining in the regular season. The Ravens host the Tampa Bay

Buccaneers on Sunday.

If the Ravens manage to take a lead into the fourth quarter in

one of those remaining games, they can only hope their experience

against the Panthers will come in handy.

”To play like this in the fourth quarter and close the game out

is huge,” Reed said. ”Coming off the loss against Atlanta, we

want to build on this and build on the season and play better and

close out games. We need to do it from start to finish if we want

to compete in late December.”