Instead, he threw three interceptions on the wrong side of a typical Ravens victory: No touchdowns for the Baltimore offense, big plays by the defense and one crucial touchdown via special teams.
Blake was intercepted twice by Chris McAlister, who returned the second one 83 yards for a touchdown. Ed Reed, who had the other pick, blocked a punt and returned it 20 yards for the other Ravens’ TD in a 26-18 win over the Cardinals.
“That’s the way the game is, you know,” Blake said. “Two plays can make you or break you.”
Jamal Lewis set a franchise record with his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. The NFL’s powerful leading rusher gained 131 yards in 21 carries. The Ravens got a scare when Lewis bruised right shoulder and went into the locker room for X-rays in the second half. They were negative and he returned to the game.
“It was all right,” Lewis said. “It was just a little hurt.”
Blake completed 22 of 36 for 247 yards and two touchdowns, but was done in by the interceptions, the third by Reed. Baltimore had no turnovers, so Arizona is minus-14 in turnover margin, by far the worst in the NFL.
“It’s a tired thing that I keep talking about, turning the football over,” Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. “Plus you put the blocked punt in there. It puts you so far behind the eight-ball in this league.”
McAlister’s first pick set up the second of Matt Stover’s four field goals as the Ravens (3-2) came off a bye week to stay in first place in the AFC North.
Blake, the Ravens’ starter last year who left in a contentious contract dispute, cut the lead to eight with his 13-yard TD pass to Freddie Jones with 15 seconds to play. Blake ran for the 2-point conversion. But the onside kick try failed.
The kickoff temperature was 96 degrees, and the paid attendance 24,193, but there were fewer than that on hand in 73,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium.
“I had to watch my mouth because everybody could hear me,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
The Ravens’ first touchdown came when Reed burst up the middle to block Scott Player’s punt, then chased down the ball and returned it 20 yards for a score to put the Ravens up 16-7 with 1:47 left in the first half.
“The guy sat out too far on me and it was wide open,” Reed said. “I took a chance and made the play.”
Levar Fisher, who was supposed to block Reed, said he had been coached to look out for the move the Ravens’ player made and still didn’t stop it.
“That was the worst feeling in the world,” Fisher said. “As bad as I tried to let it go, it affected me the whole game. I felt I let the whole team down. Right now it hurts.”
The Cardinals (1-5) trailed 16-10 at the half and drove to the Baltimore 22 with their first possession of the third quarter. But on third-and-6, Blake threw to the sideline, a little behind receiver Anquan Boldin. McAlister picked off the pass and ran untouched into the end zone to make it 23-10 with 4:03 left in the third.
“It was something me and (safety) Tommy Knight talked about based on their alignment,” McAlister said. “They just happened to run the route that we had just talked about, so right place, right time.”
McAlister waved the ball and then trotted backward into the end zone, resulting in a taunting penalty. Billick was not pleased.
“At some point he’s got to learn,” the coach said. “I’m sure he’s going to hear about it. He just has to understand that you leave your team vulnerable when you let your emotions go. It wasn’t meant to be disrespectful. He’s having fun with the game. He knows it’s a penalty and he’s got to control himself.”
The Cardinals became the first team to score a first-quarter touchdown against the Ravens this season when they took the opening kickoff and went 74 yards in six plays. Blake threw 14 yards to Bryan Gilmore for the touchdown.
Lewis ran 52 yards to the Arizona 12, Dexter Jackson hanging on the runner’s back the last 10 yards, but again the Cardinals’ defense held and Stover’s 29-yard field put the Ravens ahead 9-6 with 3:11 left in the first half.
“I took him for a long ride. That was pretty sweet,” Lewis said. “I wishI could have taken him to the end zone.” ^Notes: The Cardinals were without Emmitt Smith, who broke his left shoulder blade early in last week’s loss at Dallas and is out four to six weeks. His replacement Marcel Shipp gained 61 yards in 14 carries and caught five passes for 47 yards. … Tight end Freddie Jones caught seven passes, the most in 2 1/2 seasons with Arizona. … With the effects of the heat and Lewis’ sore right shoulder, Ravens backup Chester Taylor gained 45 yards in 10 carries. … Arizona was down to three receivers at the finish—Boldin, Kevin Kasper andNathan Poole.