A faint scar on Ed Reed!(/team/roster/ed-reed/89ece203-7de4-4b40-9651-f16f4c3b7699/ "Ed Reed")'s forehead is a reminder of when he tried to make an over-the-shoulder grab as a kid.
A thrilling touchdown run and a mortal wound to the Dolphins' Super Bowl hopes are all many will remember from when he successfully pulled in a similar catch Sunday.
"I hit my head on a mailbox," Reed said later, recalling the spill he took during a long ago pickup game.
Fast forward to Sunday, and he went essentially untouched en route to the end zone.
Reed's 64-yard pick-and-run late in the first half of the Ravens' 27-9 Wild Card win over Miami gave Baltimore control of the game. A darting interception by the Ravens safety late in the third quarter helped preserve it.
Reed had two of the team's four interceptions; Baltimore also recovered a Dolphins fumble. Five turnovers are astounding in any game, but against the Dolphins, it's unheard of.
Miami committed a league-low 13 turnovers in 2008. Quarterback Chad Pennington threw just seven interceptions. They led the league with a plus-17 turnover ratio in the regular season.
But all that was moot Sunday, when waves of Ravens pass-rushers rattled Pennington into horrendous mistakes, including the two decisive interceptions thrown to Reed.
For the former University of Miami standout, it's the continuation of a remarkable trend that began in early December. Over the last five games, he has tallied eight interceptions and vaulted himself into strong consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Coordinator **Rex Ryan** has even higher praise.
"He's probably the best free safety, the best ballhawk I've ever seen," said Ryan, whose troops allowed just 276 total yards of offense. "He's the best playmaker in the league."
For Reed, the plays are the result of tireless preparation in the film room and years of practice – even at the expense of his own quarterbacks.
While a Hurricane, Reed would make it a goal to grab interceptions during practice. He drew the ire of coaches Butch Davis and Larry Coker, but for the future Pro Bowler, it was the only way he knew how to play.
As a professional, he's become a two-way threat – often on the very same play. He expects to transform interceptions into immediate points.
And on one of the biggest stages of his seven-year career, he did just that Sunday.
With the teams tied at 3-3 in the waning moments of the first half, Pennington gambled, forcing a deep throw down the left sideline to Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn tripped after his feet tangled with **Samari Rolle**'s, but the pass had sailed on Pennington anyway, thanks to heat from Terrell Suggs!(/team/roster/terrell-suggs/ad26be43-1380-45f1-b047-a91e850d9761/ "Terrell Suggs").
Reed ranged to his right, turned his back to the play and pulled in the pick over his shoulder. That's when he turned from a defender to a returner. He started to his left, then saw a wall of blockers setting up on the right. A quick cutback got him free, and Haloti Ngata helped sealed the pick when he flattened Ginn, who had raced back to try to make a play.
"We want to be that kind of defense," said **John Harbaugh**, who won his first career playoff game as a head coach. "We feel like we can score on anybody."
But sometimes, a defense just needs to make a stop. Reed did that with his second interception of the day.
The Dolphins trailed 20-3 but had driven to the Ravens' 15. On second-and-12, Pennington again tried to force the issue. He zeroed in on Patrick Cobbs at the goal line, but Reed jumped the route and helped preserve the lead.
It also helped send Baltimore to the Divisional round of the playoffs for the second time in three years.
And if his play on the field wasn't a warning shot to the Tennessee Titans, next up for Baltimore, his words after the game were.
"Here we come, the Ravens," Reed said.