Matt Elam

Raevns quarterback Matt Elam, right, intercepts a pass against the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter, sealing the team's two-point victory. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / December 16, 2013)

The final word belongs to Ravens rookie free safety Matt Elam.

Following a week where he created unwanted headlines when he called Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson "pretty old," Elam intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass in the final minute to preserve the Ravens' 18-16 victory Monday night at Ford Field.

The first-round draft pick recorded a game-high 10 tackles and capped the game with the first interception of his career.

Afterward in the Ravens' locker room, Elam was emotional after contributing the biggest play of his NFL career.

"No disrespect to Megatron, I didn't mean it that way," Elam said. "I just feel like it's Monday night, everybody is watching. You're going to give your best game anyway. It shouldn't be somebody calling somebody out to play a good game. You're going to play a good game anyway because it's Monday night and everybody's watching and you want to win.

"He's one of the greatest receivers in the game. I have no disrespect for him. It was just my competitive spirit. I just want to win."

Elam's night didn’t begin well, and it had nothing do with the presence of Johnson.

Elam committed two mistakes unrelated to the standout wide receiver during a Lions scoring drive in the first quarter.

First, Elam was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he hit Stafford as he was sliding on third down. On the ensuing play, Elam missed a tackle in the open field on a short pass to wide receiver Nate Burleson that gained 17 yards.

The consecutive mistakes by Elam ultimately cost the Ravens as running back Reggie Bush darted14 yards around the left side into the end zone on the next play to stake the Lions to a 7-0 lead.

Elam ended the game by picking off Stafford, though, and he rebounded in the second half with some solid work in run support against Bush as well as getting the key turnover.

"It just feels great to get a team win and get that pick and win for my team," Elam said. "I just feel like we're destined for greatness. I'm so excited. I just went out there and played my game."

This marked an important night for Elam, who entered the game with two fumble recoveries.

"I'm very proud of Matt," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "After he made those comments, the guys were messing with him, teasing him a little bit. You could tell by how he was focused this week, he was into it, so I knew he was going to have a big game.

"He was just trying to back up his words. I'm just so proud of him that the pick landed in his hands to end that game, to let him know that he's here, that he's a part of it. He needs to be known."

Sack drought ends

Middle linebacker Daryl Smith perfectly timed a blitz through the center-guard gap in the first half to sack Stafford.

It ended a streak of two games without a sack for the Ravens, who had just five quarterback hits during that span.

Smith has a career-high 4.5 sacks this season as he’s been utilized frequently as an inside pass rusher since signing a one-year, $2.125 million contract in June. He also intercepted a pass in the second half.

Smith also intercepted a pass in the second half.