Ed Reed helped make defensive football exciting

Former Ravens safety Ed Reed took chances, but the way he occasionally took over a game with turnovers and touchdowns made defense exciting.

The year was 2009, a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco was starting in the AFC postseason and a wild-card game against the Dolphins in Miami -- an occasional place of horrors for the Ravens -- seemed like it could be the Baltimore football team's last stop.

The rookie quarterback completed just 9 of 23 passes, but behind 151 rushing yards -- oh, plus a pair of interceptions and a touchdown by safety Ed Reed -- the team left Miami with a 27-9 victory and eventually made it to the AFC championship game.


Reed's reputation was already well intact before that game. He was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, when he intercepted nine passes. Yet some in the Southeast Baltimore sports bar where I watched that wild-card playoff game had never seen Reed have one of those games -- you remember, the kind where he just kind of took over.

One table to my right, a man on a cell phone said "I've never watched him before, Ed Reed is nice!"

The man must have been from out of town, but his point was made. Reed was sometimes the most dangerous and exciting player on an NFL football field, not all that common for a defender.

Even if he held on to a fading career for one year too many, Reed had three interceptions with the New York Jets in seven games in 2013, his final season -- still more than any player on the 2014 Ravens defense.

Sure, he took chances -- did a single fan in M&T Bank Stadium ever really feel comfortable Reed wouldn't follow an interception with an ill-advised pitch? -- but even at the end, Reed didn't lose the ability to give his team an additional possession.

It was a big part of what what made him -- and the Ravens from 2002 to 2012 -- fun to watch.