Heap Resurging in Ravens Offense

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There's been plenty of talk about the Ravens not having enough receiving threats this season.

But as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said after Sunday's 38-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, "How about Todd Heap?"

Heap was the forgotten man last season and entered this year as an offensive afterthought in many minds. On Sunday, he made a loud statement that he's back to being the weapon opposing teams -- and Ravens fans -- can't forget about.

The Ravens' tight end caught five passes for 74 yards and one touchdown, and was a major reason why Baltimore posted a franchise-record 501 offensive total yards. Heap's first four receptions all came on third-and-long plays, capped by a touchdown catch on third-and-8 that regained the lead for the Ravens in the third quarter.

"Anything people say before the season is just talk," Heap said. "I never doubted myself once, what I could do. I don't say that in an arrogant way. I say that in a professional way."

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Flacco and Heap didn't have much of a connection last year despite Heap starting all 16 of the Ravens' games. Heap, who in 2007 was limited to just six games due to a hamstring injury, was relegated to more of a blocking role as the Ravens tried to protect their rookie signal-caller.

That meant Heap, a two-time Pro-Bowler in 2002 and 2003 and the Ravens' all-time leader in touchdown receptions, finished with just 35 catches for 403 yards and three touchdowns. It was the fewest catches he had in his career when he played all 16 games.

But Heap said he wasn't frustrated by the diminished role and knew that he was still contributing -- just in a different way.

"People that know me and are close to me and have watched me know what I'm capable of," Heap said. "You're always going to have the doubters out there, you're always going to have those people. I can't worry about that. I can just control what I can control."

Health-wise, Heap said he feels better than he has in a long time. He and Flacco also worked more on their chemistry this offseason and should have more chances to utilize it with an opened-up offense. Those factors combined means there could be more days like Sunday for Heap.

Although it was just the preseason, Heap caught five passes and a touchdown in two games. His five catches Sunday against the Chiefs tied him with wide receiver Mark Clayton for the team-lead.

"To get Todd in the offense, it's going to be huge for us," Flacco said. "We've been waiting to break out and today was a good game for us."

Heap's touchdown catch on Sunday was circa 2006, when he led the Ravens with 73 receptions and six touchdown catches.

Heap had two Kansas City linebackers in his vicinity when he leapt to catch a third-and-8 pass over the middle. He was still one yard short of the first down when he snatched the ball away from Chiefs linebacker Corey Mays. Heap turned and fought his way into the end zone, putting the Ravens up 17-14 with four minutes, two seconds left in the third quarter.

"That's how I like to play," Heap said. "Joe was being pressured. I think it was just quick thinking by him to get the ball out of his hands. I kind of had a little move over the middle on the guy. I had to go get the ball and attack it."

Heap also made a third-and-8 catch, this time for 14 yards, on the Ravens' second drive in the first quarter. Three plays later, the Ravens scored on a 3-yard pass from Flacco to running back Willis McGahee to take a 10-0 lead. His third reception of 10 yards was on third-and-8 over the middle, a catch that ended with him getting popped hard in the head. His touchdown reception came six plays later.

Heap's final reception was his longest, a 24-yard strike that set up Le'Ron McClain's one-yard touchdown plunge to gave the Ravens a 25-17 lead with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.

"He had a great game, made some big-time catches," Flacco said. "It was awesome, for a tight end to make plays for you like that."

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