This season, Frank Walker had garnered more attention for his mouth - talking and otherwise - than his skills as a cornerback.
Walker got a chance to demonstrate why the Ravens coveted him in the offseason as he led the defense with six solo tackles, forced a fumble and broke up two passes in the Ravens' 27-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T; Bank Stadium yesterday.
"Whenever [defensive coordinator Rex Ryan] calls on me, I try to be ready," said Walker, who signed two-year, $3.5 million deal in March. "They prepared me good all week. Basically, it was just like practice."
Walker made his fifth start of the season - his first since the team's 37-27 win over the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 2 - because cornerback Fabian Washington was deactivated before yesterday's game with a lingering toe injury. Washington, who had been listed as questionable, did not practice all week and sat out his fourth game of the season.
Walker's biggest play occurred on Jacksonville's first possession, when he stripped Dennis Northcutt after the wide receiver caught a 12-yard pass on a slant pattern. Linebacker Ray Lewis recovered the fumble at the Jaguars' 33-yard line, and although Matt Stover missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt, Walker set the tone for the rest of the contest.
Before yesterday, Walker had gained notoriety for his proclivity for mouthing off at opponents and for what he called "a slobber moment" when his spittle landed in the mouth of Pittsburgh Steelers holder Mitch Berger two weeks ago. "I just want to win," Walker said. "All I want to do is beat the guy in front of me and get this 'W' for the team. The stats, I could care less."
Stover's streak of 14 consecutive field goals ended as his 48-yard attempt with 6:59 left in the first quarter slipped outside the left upright.
Stover, who hadn't missed an attempt since a 32-yard try was blocked in the Ravens' 30-10 loss to the New York Giants on Nov. 16, said he was surprised his kick cut through a wind blowing left-to-right inside the stadium.
"I aimed a little bit left of center, and it started there and just continued to go to the left," said Stover, who connected on field goals of 41 and 32 yards yesterday and has converted 81.8 percent (27 of 33) of his attempts this season. "I wouldn't have thought that would have happened."
Wide receiver Derrick Mason eclipsed the 10,000-yard career receiving mark when he caught an 11-yard pass early in the second quarter.
Mason, who had a team-high six receptions for 77 yards, finished with 10,061 yards.
"You put yourself in an elite class when you eclipse 10,000 yards," Mason said. "[Jerry] Rice, [Marvin] Harrison, [Cris] Carter, people like that. You put yourself in a class that not too many are in right now. But we've still got four games left, and I'll deal with the 10,000 yards after the season."
A word from the owner
Team owner Steve Bisciotti broke the team huddle after director of player development O.J. Brigance spoke to the team before the game.
"To me, it was very fitting," coach John Harbaugh said. "Steve summed it up in one word - trust. That's kind of what our guys have done a great job of. That's probably the key to our success."
Roger Goodell attended yesterday's game, and aside from saying that there was little movement to expand the playoff field or re-seed the playoff teams after the first round, the NFL commissioner said referee Walt Coleman made the right call when he used instant replay to rule that a catch by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes had crossed the goal line in the Ravens' 13-9 loss on Dec. 14.
"He took two different angles together and determined that the ball had broken the plane," Goodell said. "I've seen those replays, and I'm supportive of his decision."
Goodell later said instant replay would be another topic of discussion during the offseason: "We will obviously - as we do every year - go back and look at instant replay and see if there are any other modifications."
With two more interceptions yesterday, free safety Ed Reed leads the NFL with nine. The Ravens improved to 8-0 when Reed collects at least two interceptions in a game. ... Troy Smith's 36-yard catch-and-run late in the third quarter showed off his athleticism, but the quarterback noted that he was still 29 yards short of the end zone. "See, that's the difference between me being a quarterback and something else," Smith said. "A quarterback gets tripped up, but a tailback or a receiver or somebody who knows how to run after the catch would have scored right there."
Team president Dick Cass talked to referee Alberto Riveron after Stover's 41-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 27-7 lead in the third quarter because of an issue with the lights inside M&T; Bank Stadium. ... Members of the 1958 Baltimore Colts were honored at halftime to mark the 50th anniversary of their NFL championship-winning game against the Giants at Yankee Stadium. The overtime victory was broadcast on live television and is widely credited with launching the NFL into its current state of popularity. "There's a simple formula in pro football: No fans, no football," Hall of Fame wide receiver Raymond Berry said in brief remarks to fans. "Thanks to you, we got to play."
The Ravens became the first team since the 1962 Green Bay Packers to limit opponents to no more than 13 points per home game in a season. Opponents scored just 80 points in eight games at M&T; Bank Stadium. ... In addition to Washington, the Ravens deactivated rookie running back Ray Rice (left shin bruise), return specialist Yamon Figurs (head), linebacker Antwan Barnes (pectoral muscle), wide receiver Marcus Maxwell (hip), rookie offensive tackle Oniel Cousins and rookie guard David Hale. Todd Bouman was the third quarterback.
Defensive end Trevor Pryce, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and right guard Chris Chester represented the Ravens for the coin toss. ... The Jaguars deactivated defensive linemen Mkristo Bruce and Atiyyah Ellison, offensive linemen Jordan Black and Cameron Stephenson, wide receiver Nate Hughes, defensive back Calvin Lowry and linebacker Thomas Williams. Paul Smith was the third quarterback.