The Ed Reed era is officially over in Baltimore, though the safety will always be considered one of the greatest Ravens players of all-time -- and arguably the most entertaining, as my colleague Childs Walker wrote today.
In this excellent piece on Reed, Childs explained why he can’t help but feel a little sadness now that Reed has joined the Houston Texans, because, in his words, Reed didn’t want to just be “ordinary great.” Reed did it his way, especially when he had the ball in his hands -- a common occurrence -- making him fun for us to cover.
I couldn’t have said it any better than Childs, so I will instead look back at some of those memorable plays when the bearded ballhawk meandered his way toward the end zone. Sometimes he got there. Other times he pitched to a teammate -- or to the turf. But some of his returns were among most thrilling plays in Ravens history.
Here is a list of seven that stand out in my memory. If I missed any other good ones, tell me about them in the comments section.
REED'S FUMBLE FOLLY: We got a glimpse of things to come in Reed's rookie season when he picked off Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna and weaved his way toward the end zone. He started celebrating before he got there, though, holding the ball out once he crossed the 10-yard line. Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh swatted it away and the Bengals recovered, denying Reed his first career touchdown.
OH NO… WAIT, OH YES: In a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, Reed ran into the record books when he picked off Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb in the back of the end zone on 2nd-and-Goal from the 1-yard line. Ed take a knee? Never. Reed ran it all the way back. On his way to a 108-yard interception return for a touchdown, he pushed Kolb out of the way, slipped by Brian Westbrook and juked Brent Celek to the ground.
SCOOPING AND SCORING: In a Monday night game in 2008 between the Ravens and their neighbors to the south, the Washington Redskins, Reed was all over the field. His most impressive play came when he ripped the ball out of the hands of Clinton Portis after a run, scooped it up and ran it 22 yards for a touchdown. Reed backpedaled into the end zone after spinning around the final Redskin in his path.
PICKING OFF PENNINGTON: Reed had a career-high nine interceptions during the 2008 regular season, and he added another one in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Dolphins. Reed ran under a Chad Pennington overthrow as if he was fielding a punt, then made a sharp turn to reverse field. He sprinted past flat-footed wide-outs and overmatched offensive linemen on the way into the end zone.
HOPE HITS THE TURF: In the 2009 playoffs, the Ravens were getting dominated by the Indianapolis Colts. Trailing 17-3 in the third quarter, Reed gave the team hope when he jumped a throw to the right sideline and picked off Peyton Manning. Reed ran the ball across midfield, but when he reached the 30-yard line, wide receiver Pierre Garcon knocked it out of his hands -- a deflating play for the Ravens, whose offense was really struggling.
A VINTAGE REED PITCH: Reed’s penchant for pitching the ball had become so pronounced that fans used to beg him to not pitch the ball after turnovers. His pitches sometimes paid off, though, and no play exemplifies that better than when he pitched the ball to fellow safety Dawan Landry after picking off Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme in 2010. Reed probably could have run it back himself, but he made a daring one-handed five-yard pitch -- at full speed -- so Landry could take it to the house.
ONE FINAL INTERCEPTION: In what turned out to be Reed’s final game as a member of the Ravens, the future Hall-of-Fame safety intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLVII. It was a bad overthrow by the young quarterback, but Reed, as often was the case, was positioned in the right place at the right time. He twisted and turned trying to shake free of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, but his return didn’t go far by his standards. Still, it was a fitting end to a memorable Ravens career.