Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs joked that rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith finally earned the Ravens emblem on his helmet.
Smith, the team's first-round pick in April, finished with three tackles, one pass breakup and one interception that led to a Ray Rice touchdown in the Ravens' 31-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday.
It was quite a showing for Smith, who got more snaps as the third defensive back in the team's nickel package.
"It felt amazing to be out there and contribute to the team after such a long time of being out," said Smith, who had missed four games after suffering a high left ankle sprain in the season opener on Sept. 11. "It felt great out there."
Smith's biggest moment occurred in the third quarter when he stepped in front of an Andy Dalton pass intended for wide receiver Andre Caldwell at the Bengals' 32-yard line. Smith returned the interception 16 yards before Cincinnati's Jerome Simpson punched the ball out. Ravens inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo pounced on the loose ball on the 2. On the ensuing play, Rice rumbled into the end zone to give the Ravens a 24-14 advantage.
"It was a Cover-2 call, and he tried to run the inside," Smith recalled. "As soon as I looked, the ball was right there. I got to show off my return skills a little bit, and then it came out. So the next time, I'll hit the sideline."
Smith did have his struggles; he could not keep up with Caldwell on a fade route, and Caldwell hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to make the score 31-21 with 10:59 left in the game.
"We ran an all-out blitz, and on an all-out blitz, you're thinking something quick," Smith said. "He ended up running a fade. That's the weak spot in that defense."
Still, Smith earned rave reviews from his teammates.
"Jimmy came in and made a great play," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "He grew up today. He really grew up. He started it off. He got that pick, really, at a perfect time."
"Calvin Johnson" rule bails out Ravens
The Ravens were the beneficiaries of a rule carved out almost 15 months ago.
In the 2010 season opener for the Detroit Lions, what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson was overturned when officials ruled that the wide receiver did not control the ball to the ground.
Late in the fourth quarter, Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham caught a juggling pass and crossed the goal line with both feet in-bounds, but when he was tackled to the turf by cornerback Cary Williams, Gresham placed the ball on the ground and lost possession of it. That, according to referee Ron Winter, made the catch an incompletion.
"When the receiver went to the ground, he had the ball in his right hand, the ball touched the ground, and his hand came off the ball by about [an inch], and he then re-grasped it and brought it in," Winter told a pool reporter after the game.
When asked if it mattered when Gresham crossed the goal line, Winter replied, "When he's going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of the catch. So when he goes to the ground, he can't have the ball touch the ground and have him lose control."
Evans plays for first time in eight weeks
Wide receiver Lee Evans returned for the first time since Sept. 18 against the Tennessee Titans, lining up against the Bengals when the offense went to a three-receiver set.
Rookie Torrey Smith made his eighth consecutive start, catching six passes for 165 yards and one touchdown, while Evans, who sat out seven consecutive game due to a left ankle injury, was targeted once without catching a pass.
"Yeah, it was good to be out there," said Evans, who had been listed as questionable after practicing all three days on a limited basis last week. "Better yet, it was good to get a win. That's the best part about it, to be out there. On a personal level, I didn't really get a chance to make any plays, but we got the win, and that's all that matters."
D. Reed takes a seat
A week after losing two fumbles on kick returns that led to field goals in Sunday's 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, wide receiver/kick returner David Reed was deactivated and did not play.
Reed, who had fumbled three times on kick returns in his previous two games, was not available for comment after the game.
Strong safety Tom Zbikowski returned one kick for 26 yards before absorbing a big hit by safety Taylor Mays. Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb shared kick return duties fore the rest of the contest.
Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson overtook former defensive end Michael McCrary and former linebacker Jamie Sharper as the franchise's all-time leader in consecutive starts with his 74th straight start Sunday. Johnson is already the Ravens' leader in consecutive games played with 123. … Former kicker Matt Stover became the seventh inductee to the Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium during halftime. "It's been a privilege to be here with you, and it's been a privilege to serve you on the field," Stover said. "… The last thing I want to say is when my name goes up there, your name goes up there, too. Thank you, Baltimore." … In addition to inside linebacker Ray Lewis (toe) and Reed, the Ravens also scratched defensive tackle Arthur Jones (head), outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, rookie running back Anthony Allen (thigh), rookie cornerback Chykie Brown and rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss. … The Bengals played without rookie starting wide receiver A.J. Green, who was deactivated after missing practice last week due to a hyperextended right knee suffered in last Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. … Cincinnati also scratched safety Robert Sands, linebacker Dontay Moch, guard Clint Boling, offensive tackle Anthony Collins, tight end Donald Lee and wide receiver Ryan Whalen. … Safeties Bernard Pollard and Haruki Nakamura and running back Ray Rice represented the Ravens for the coin toss.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times