Todd Heap's two-touchdown performance in the Ravens' 37-34 overtime win against the visiting Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday validated what he had been convinced of last week: that the tight end would play on despite absorbing a violent blow in the helmet the previous week.
"I don't like sitting out," Heap said. "If there's any possibility of me playing and if I feel like I can play at the level I expect from myself, I'm going to be out there."
The Ravens are probably thankful that Heap willed himself to play because he scored the team's only offensive touchdowns in the first half to trim what had been a significant deficit to Buffalo to a more manageable level.
His first touchdown catch, a 26-yard strike with 8:15 left in the second quarter, occurred after he threw a double move at a safety and caught a well-timed pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in the end zone. The second touchdown, a 14-yarder 23 seconds before halftime, came when a safety missed Heap, who stopped and offered Flacco a target in the coverage.
"Yeah, you're always shocked when you make those plays, and they come together like you've practiced all the time," Heap said. "It was a good play. We needed a lot of those big plays today that we had to get the momentum back. It was a game of momentum, and at times they had it and at times we got it back. We're just happy to get it in the end."
The day wasn't entirely rosy for Heap, who crumpled to the turf after the Ravens scored a touchdown to open the third quarter and assume a 27-24 lead. Afterward, Heap, who was described as suffering from a right shoulder stinger, said the injury was linked to the helmet-to-helmet collision he had suffered when New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather had launched himself into Heap in the Patriots' 23-20 overtime win last Sunday.
Heap said he could not recall with certainty that he had passed out, only that the pain was intense and re-emerged again on the team's final possession in overtime.
Heap, however, said the possibility of an injury linked to the Meriweather didn't impact his decision to play.
"I don't think anybody is 100 percent coming into these games," he said. "After Week 1, that all goes out the window. But like I said, my body's felt great all year long. I was just battling the tightness, stiffness. It was a little bit of a reoccurrence from last week's hit. So [it was] something I was battling all week. I felt like I was good enough to go, and I was hoping to not reinjure it or not make it worse. We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Willis McGahee, not Ray Rice, started at tailback against the Bills, but McGahee didn't think the move was related to not being played Oct. 17 against the Patriots.
"Like I said, I treat it as any other game," he said. "Whether Ray's starting or I'm not, it doesn't make a difference. I really wasn't doing anything special."
Rice finished with more carries (16) and more rushing yards (72), but McGahee gained 64 yards on 11 attempts and scored the only rushing touchdown of the contest.
"I wasn't surprised," McGahee said of the 2-yard run that began with the Ravens players moving to their left, but McGahee receiving a pitch from Flacco and going right. "It was just my job to get it into the end zone. When everybody was going to the left and they finally realized that I had the ball, it was my job to get into the end zone. And I wasn't going to let anybody stop me."
The Ravens turned an Ed Reed interception to begin the third quarter into seven points when the offense converted a flea-flicker that involved McGahee pitching the ball back to Flacco and the quarterback firing a 34-yard bomb to an open Anquan Boldin in the end zone.
"I think it was just a great call by [offensive coordinator] Cam [Cameron]," said Boldin, who finished with six catches for 92 yards. "We had just come off the turnover — Ed had the interception there — so we wanted to take a shot right off the bat. The flea flicker was the perfect call. Willis sold it. … Joe put it right over the DB."
Coach John Harbaugh backed the call, but not initially.
"When I first heard it, I kind of cringed a little bit," he said. "But when you think about it, that's what you do in that situation. It was executed so well by Joe, by Anquan and by Willis. That's just the kind of thing you like to see. When it works, it's aggressive. When it doesn't work, it's something else."
Kruger comes back
It was Kruger's only stat of the contest, but it was an encouraging sign for Kruger, who had said as late as last Thursday that he might have to wait until after the bye week to return.
"It got better just in the last couple of days," he said of the shoulder. "It was kind of a game-time decision last night. But everything went well, and I was feeling good."
After the game, the shoulder was heavily wrapped with a bag of ice trapped underneath, but Kruger said the shoulder wasn't too bad. "It's always sore after you're done, but it held up really well," he said.
Ayanbadejo's quiet return
Special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo did not record any tackles, but just returning to the field after recovering from a torn left quadriceps muscle on Oct. 4, 2009, was noteworthy enough.
"That was everything and more than I expected it was going to be," Ayanbadejo said after the game. "It was live bullets out there. It's been a year of rehabbing, three days of practice and then back to the live bullets. I've got a lot of improvement in front of me, but it's good to get out there live."
Ayanbadejo said he wasn't worried about taking a hit on the leg. His biggest concern was adapting to the mental rigors under split-second conditions.
"Just recognition-wise, it took me a little bit," he said. "The first time they double-teamed me, they got me. The second time they double-teamed me, I beat it and the next time I beat it. It took me a little while. I was like Neo in 'The Matrix.' I was uploading every play."
The Ravens deactivated safeties Tom Zbikowski (bruised heel) and Ken Hamlin, wide receivers Donte' Stallworth ( broken bone in left foot) and rookie David Reed (thigh), defensive tackles Lamar Divens and rookie Arthur Jones, linebacker Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder) and offensive tackle Scott Kooistra. … Buffalo played without linebacker Aaron Maybin. The Ellicott City native and Mount Hebron graduate was the 11th overall pick in last year's draft, but he has yet to register a sack in 19 career games. The Bills also scratched offensive tackles Cornell Green (knee) and Ed Wang, defensive ends Alex Carrington and John McCargo, cornerback Terrence McGee (back) and linebacker Keith Ellison. Levi Brown was the third (emergency) quarterback. Leodis McKelvin started for McGee, and Cordaro Howard filled in for Green at right tackle. … Reed, Ayanbadejo and McGahee represented the Ravens for the coin toss.
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