Monday, January 5, 2009

Ravens' Reed shows the 49ers what they're missing

Does Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed have a fan club? If he does, sign me up. This is a player I’d definitely pay to see, and there aren’t many NFL free safeties in this era that I could say that about.

Reed put on another dazzling show Sunday in the Ravens’ 27-9 playoff victory over Miami. He intercepted two passes and, naturally, returned one of those 64 yards for a touchdown.

When Reed gets his hands on the ball, he has an uncanny knack for winding up in the end zone. He’s simply too quick, fast and clever for those offensive players who are forced to switch gears and try to tackle him.

Reed has now scored 12 touchdowns on either interception or fumble returns during his career. Earlier this year, he returned an interception 107 yards for a touchdown against Philadelphia. In 2004, he returned an interception 106 yards for a score against Cleveland.

If you’re a 49ers fan, Reed’s ridiculously good performance points to one of your team’s biggest needs approaching free agency and the draft. Starting 49ers free safety Mark Roman hasn’t intercepted a pass since 2006, his first season with the 49ers. He had one that year and has five in his nine NFL seasons. He has never returned an interception or fumble for a touchdown.

Of course there’s only one Ed Reed. This guy is a touchdown-scoring freak who has 43 career regular-season interceptions in just seven seasons. But even a poor man’s Ed Reed would be a huge upgrade for the 49ers.

They need more game-changing plays out of their free safety. Roman apparently doesn’t have the knowledge, instincts, hands or burst to make those big plays.

Reed always seems to be at the right place at the right time. On his first interception Sunday, he was basically playing center field when he tracked down an errant pass from Chad Pennington. He angled toward the left sideline, set up his blockers, then cut back across the grain and followed a convoy into the end zone.

Later in the game, Reed was lined up deep, but as Pennington dropped back, Reed read the play and, seemingly, Pennington’s mind. He knifed in front of a Pennington pass at about 100 mph for his second interception.

As that play unfolded, Reed was initially so far away from Pennington’s target that he probably thought Reed couldn’t possibly be a factor in the play. Reed, though, covers ground faster than most cornerbacks.

Reed will line up against the Tennessee Titans and quarterback Kerry Collins on Saturday in a divisional playoff game in Nashville. No one should be surprised if No. 20 winds up in the end zone again.

No comments:

Post a Comment