When the Ravens awarded Corey Harris a game ball yesterday, they should have had it iron-plated.
In Sunday's 39-36 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Harris was the Ravens' most valuable and durable member of their supporting cast, logging more than 90 plays.
He collected four tackles on defense and two on special teams. As part of kickoffs, he averaged 21.8 yards on seven returns. And when free safety Rod Woodson suffered a mild concussion midway through the fourth quarter, Harris filled the void by deflecting a pass that led to an interception, along with picking off the Jaguars' final pass.
"It's the societal thing of the need to be needed," said Harris, who lost out on the starting strong safety job to Kim Herring during training camp. "You want to be part of an organization that feels like they need you around. I'm not satisfied with not being a starter, but you do your part and be ready to come in."
But Harris didn't complain of being tired. Actually, he had to endure tougher circumstances as a starter for the Miami Dolphins in 1997, when he played every defensive snap, as well as running on every special teams unit against the Detroit Lions.
"Over my career, it's kind of what I'm used to," Harris said.
A day after Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell racked up 375 yards passing, Ravens coach Brian Billick reiterated his confidence in cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAlister. It was the most yards allowed passing in Ravens history.
Each corner had his share of mistakes, from Starks failing to get a hand on two long touchdown passes, to McAlister drawing flags on two third-down situations.
"Not to make excuses for them, but Mark Brunell and [wideout Jimmy] Smith are the best quarterback-receiver combination that exists in the NFL today," Billick said."[McAlister and Starks] will hold up better; they have held up better in the past. They are looking at the film right now to see what they can do."
The Jaguars would beg to differ.
"We lit [the Ravens' cornerbacks] up," receiver Keenan McCardell said. "We're playing with three Pro Bowlers who know what they're doing and know [how] to do it good. There's going to be more of it in four weeks [against the Ravens]. I can't wait."
Cheers for fans
After a week of challenging their fans, the Ravens took time out to applaud them.
The crowd of 68,843 created so much noise that the Jaguars were forced to use all three of their second-half timeouts early and had to play the final 10 minutes without the ability to stop the clock.
That freed the Ravens to concentrate on deep throws and sideline routes, since Jacksonville couldn't afford to work the middle of the field.
"That was huge in that final series," Billick said. "To give Mark Brunell, even if it's a long field, one or two timeouts from where he started, that's a dangerous proposition."
R. Lewis 'heart, soul'
The Ravens extended their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 19 games on the strength of middle linebacker Ray Lewis' 11 tackles. He has registered double-digit tackles in four of his last seven games, dating to last season.
"He's the heart and soul of that defense. You always count on Ray," Billick said. "The way he recognizes, diagnoses and shoots the gap is a big reason why we're so hard to run on.
"As an offensive coordinator, you can't account for that. You have someone responsible for him. The guy should at least be able to see him, let alone block him. And boom, he blows through that gap and blows you up. He's got an incredible instinct for that."
In two games this season, the Ravens have given up an NFL-low total of 76 yards on the ground. In fact, no running back has squeezed out more than 41 yards against them in the past five games.
After the game, Billick presented game balls to majority owner Art Modell and team president David Modell. As for the players, he handed out game balls to receiver Travis Taylor (offense), Herring (defense) and Harris (special teams). ... Kicker Matt Stover has converted 22 straight field goals, the longest current streak in the NFL. He is one shy of tying his career-best stretch that he set in 1994-95. ... Gilman School coach Biff Poggi was named the Ravens' high school Coach of the Week. A recipient receives a $500 donation for his program, an award signed by Billick and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and T-shirts for all of his players.