Notes: Leonhard Makes More Plays
Jim Leonhard has stepped up for the Ravens in each playoff game. by Mike Duffy
Jan 19, 2009, 6:20AM
He may be one of the more lesser-known players on the football field, but fans certainly heard Ravens safety Jim Leonhard’s name called often in Sunday’s 23-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Leonhard, who totaled four tackles in the AFC Championship tilt, made two giant plays for Baltimore, something he’s done throughout the Ravens’ run through the playoffs.
The 5-foot-8, 186-pounder regularly seems to be in the right place at the right time. This week, we scooped up a fumble that linebacker Ray Lewis forced of running back Willie Parker in the first quarter.
Parker was running off the left end when Lewis popped the ball out from behind, and it fell directly into Leonhard’s waiting hands.
The Ravens could not convert the turnover into points, however, giving possession back when quarterback Joe Flacco’s sneak up the middle was stopped on fourth-and-1.
Leonhard’s second explosive contribution did yield points.
Taking a second quarter punt from Pittsburgh’s Mitch Berger, Leonhard went from his own 38-yard line to the Steelers’ 17 for a 42-yard return.
Four snaps later, running back Willie McGahee plunged 3 yards for the Ravens’ first touchdown.
Leonhard’s outing at Heinz Field was a continuation of his performance over the entire postseason.
In the Wild Card round, Leonhard intercepted typically careful Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington and returned it 20 yards.
In the Divisional Round, Leonhard recovered one fumble and later forced another, and both occurred deep in Baltimore territory.
Still, the sting of the loss and a squandered chance to play in Super Bowl XLIII had Leonhard’s mind on other things after the game.
“Those personal accomplishments don’t matter if you don’t get the win,” Leonhard said. “This one is going to hurt for a few weeks.”
Even though fullback Le’Ron McClain led the Ravens in 2008 with 902 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 232 attempts, it was Willis McGahee carrying the bulk of Baltimore’s ground attack.
McGahee rushed 20 times for 60 yards and two scores, while McClain primarily blocked for him.
The University of Alabama product said that the ankle injury he sustained last weekend against the Tennessee Titans was not bothering him and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery informed him of his role before the game.
“My ankle was fine," he said. "My role today was fullback. I'd rather have no carries and win.”
According to several published reports in New York newspapers, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan is slated to be announced as the next head coach of the New York Jets as early as Monday.
When Baltimore coach John Harbaugh stepped in to his new position earlier this year, he added assistant head coach to Ryan’s title and included his input on many decisions.
“I was blessed to be in this situation with John and Cam Cameron,” Ryan said. “I feel like I’m definitely more prepared to be a head coach in this league.”
Rex Ryan is going to be a great head coach in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "If somebody is wise enough to make that decision here shortly, they will have a great head football coach. I just support him completely in that.”
The Ravens’ team plane from Pittsburgh was delayed leaving the airport for an hour to de-ice in the freezing temperatures, which prompted the team to cancel a planned visit with fans at the Owings Mills, Md., mall.
Baltimore finally reached their training facility at 3:30 a.m., and a smattering of about 30 fans greeted the team on the driveway leading up to the entrance gate.
The Ravens designated former defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and director of player development O.J. Brigance as their honorary captains. Pittsburgh tabbed former Steelers safety Rod Woodson and center Dermontti Dawson. Because Brigance has difficulty moving because he is suffering from ALS, he was taken to the field on a motorized cart. … The Steelers and Ravens had met just once before in the playoffs, with the Steelers winning, 27-10, in the 2001 divisional round. … Heinz Field was packed with 65,350 fans, setting a Pittsburgh football attendance record. ... The Ravens will hold their final full-team meeting Monday at 3:30 p.m. before breaking for the offseason. Harbaugh will hold his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday.
Posted by Jim and Katie on 1/19/2009