Ed Reed, Jim Leonhard

Ed Reed (left) returns an interception 108 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Reed, who broke his own NFL record on the play, picked off another pass in the second quarter. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / November 23, 2008)

The Ravens stamped themselves as a contender in this year's playoff race yesterday with another historic run by Ed Reed.

The Pro Bowl free safety broke his NFL record with an 108-yard interception return for a touchdown, highlighting the Ravens' 36-7 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles before 71,379 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Reed's runback in the fourth quarter eclipsed his previous record -- 106 yards in November 2004 -- and gave the Ravens a platform to declare themselves a major contender in the AFC postseason hunt.

"We're on a mission," said Reed, whose two interceptions contributed to the Ravens' season-best five take-aways. "It's to get to the next level and the playoffs. I'm not satisfied until we get to the Super Bowl and win it."

The Ravens (7-4) won for the fifth time in six games and kept themselves within one game of the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3).

But the statement wasn't that the Ravens beat the Eagles (5-5-1). It was how they beat them.

In the first half, the defense hammered the Eagles so hard that quarterback Donovan McNabb was benched. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens delivered 24 points that caused the rest of the Eagles to call it quits.

No play in the fourth quarter was bigger than Reed's dramatic return.

With the Ravens ahead 22-7, Reed picked off Philadelphia backup quarterback Kevin Kolb in the end zone and immediately broke up the sideline.

Reed made his first cutback to sidestep Kolb and then pushed running back Brian Westbrook off to the side. He eluded a diving tackle by lineman Todd Herremans, leaving one more Eagle to beat.

After faking out tight end Brent Celek at the Philadelphia 20-yard line, Reed jaunted the rest of the way for his 10th career touchdown.

"I might be a little biased, [but] he's one of the greatest football players I've seen," linebacker Ray Lewis said of Reed.

The most intriguing part of the record-setting run came before Reed touched the ball.

Philadelphia had second-and-goal at the Ravens' 1-yard line, which seemed to suggest the Eagles would run the ball. But backup safety Haruki Nakamura pointed out to Reed that wide receiver Reggie Brown, instead of a tight end, was lining up at the end of the line, tipping Philadelphia's hand that a pass was coming.

Remaining patient, Reed kept his eye on Brown running his route before running in front of him to make his 37th career interception, tops in team history.

"The quarterback never even saw me come from behind," said Reed, who ended an eight-game interception drought (the second-longest of his seven-year career).

The touchdown offered some redemption for Reed.

In the second quarter, Reed intercepted McNabb and ran 43 yards to the Philadelphia 6, where he surprisingly tried to flip the ball to cornerback Samari Rolle in a crowd.

Reed's lateral was ruled an illegal forward pass, a penalty that was offset by a personal foul on Eagles lineman Jon Runyan. Three plays later, the Ravens converted Reed's interception into a touchdown when Daniel Wilcox made a one-handed catch in the end zone to put the Ravens up 10-0.