By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) - The Baltimore Ravens had Chad Pennington spinning,
ducking, on his heels and on his back. When he did manage to get a
pass away, they were often there to snatch it.
The Ravens came up with four interceptions, including one
returned 64 yards for a touchdown by Ed Reed, and won 27-9 Sunday
to spoil the Miami Dolphins' first playoff game in seven seasons.
Baltimore stuffed Miami's ground attack and negated the Wildcat,
but most of all the Ravens harried Pennington into uncharacteristic
mistakes. After throwing only seven interceptions during the
regular season, he had four during a 22-minute flurry midway
through the game.
"We heard all week that they don't turn the ball over,"
linebacker Ray Lewis said. "But we force turnovers."
With a rookie coach in John Harbaugh and a rookie quarterback in
Joe Flacco, wild-card entrant Baltimore (12-5) won for the 10th
time in 12 games and will play Saturday at AFC South champion
"We're going to Tennessee," Reed said. "Be there."
The playoff victory was the first for the Ravens since they beat
Miami in a first-round game in January 2002. The result put the
brakes on this season's remarkable resurgence by the Dolphins
(11-6), who won the AFC East after going 1-15 in 2007.
"It has been a special year; that's why it hurts so much,"
Pennington said. "You want to keep it going and see how far you
can take it."
A soft schedule contributed to Miami's turnaround, and there was
nothing soft about the Ravens. They forced repeated mistakes by a
team that tied an NFL record with only 13 turnovers during the
Reed had two interceptions, and Jim Leonhard and Fabian
Washington made one apiece. Terrell Suggs recovered a fumble by
Patrick Cobbs early in the second half at the Miami 19, and four
plays later Le'Ron McClain scored on an 8-yard run for a 20-3 lead.
Pennington, playing his first game since being chosen the NFL
Comeback Player of the Year, was sacked three times and faced
"It always starts up front," Ravens defensive tackle Trevor
Pryce said. "We had some favorable matchups, and we took advantage
of them. It's quite simple."
Baltimore's secondary also had Miami overmatched. Pennington,
who finished 25-for-38 for 252 yards, said the Ravens made good
plays on three of the interceptions, and he regretted throwing only
"I just couldn't get them to go my way," Pennington said.
Baltimore allowed just 52 yards rushing, and the Dolphins were
limited to 7 yards on two plays from the Wildcat, the innovative
formation that helped jump-start their revival.
Field position hurt the Dolphins, who started consecutive
possessions at their 20, 6, 20, 20, 20 and 2. But the biggest
problem was Baltimore's ball-hawking defense, which led the NFL
during the regular season with 26 interceptions, including a
league-high nine by Reed.
On the game's pivotal play in the second period, he made an
over-the-shoulder catch of Pennington's deep throw after intended
receiver Ted Ginn Jr., fell.
"Like playing center field," Reed said.
He headed toward the left sideline, eluded a tackler, reversed
his field and sprinted for the right corner of the end zone,
scoring after Suggs leveled Pennington at the 5-yard line. That put
Baltimore ahead to stay, 10-3.
"It felt like the 200 in track," Reed said. "I don't think I
caught my breath until the third quarter."
Flacco was only 9-for-23 for 135 yards, but he committed no
turnovers and let the Ravens' defenders control the game.
"They've been doing it all year," the rookie said. "You're
sitting on the sidelines, and that's what you expect. You get used
to it, and you're asking for it every play. Today, they did it on
Trailing 20-3, the Dolphins tried to rally with a 58-yard drive
to the 13 before Reed again intercepted Pennington late in the
"No one is surprised at the way Ed Reed plays," Harbaugh said.
"He may be the best player in the game."
The Ravens' defensive performance was reminiscent of their 27-13
victory at Miami in October. The Dolphins won nine of 10 after that
defeat to earn an improbable playoff berth.
"It hasn't been a good day, but it has been a great year,"
said Miami owner Wayne Huizenga, who is soon expected to complete
his sale of the franchise.
His surprising team finally ran out of surprises. After Ronnie
Brown made a one-handed catch for a 2-yard score to make it 20-9,
Willis McGahee ran 48 yards to set up the Ravens' final touchdown
with 3:53 left.
Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's unit didn't have
to do much else. But with the result, Cameron won more games at
Dolphin Stadium this season than in 2007 as Miami's head coach.
Notes: Pennington's four interceptions were a Miami postseason
record. ... Flacco completed two passes for 14 yards in the second
half. ... Miami went 2-for-11 converting third- and fourth-down
situations. ... Baltimore had the ball for less than 27 minutes
after leading the NFL in time of possession during the regular
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)