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Billick energizes offense as Ravens roll

Oct 29, 2006 - 9:20 PM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick pumped some life into his club's struggling offense. He has nothing to worry about on the defensive side of the ball.

Steve McNair threw for two touchdowns and rookies Ronnie Prude and Dawan Landry returned interceptions for scores as the Ravens coasted to a 35-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Trying to spark his club's stagnant offense, Billick made the move heading into the bye week to fire offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, giving himself the play-calling duties.

Billick's move worked as the Ravens (5-2) piled up 219 yards and 16 first downs in the first half en route to building a 28-7 lead.

"Today was about players knowing what they needed to do and executing properly," Billick said. "That's all that this is. Whether you jump off a 30-story building or a 50-story building, it's just another story."

McNair, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago against Carolina, had touchdown passes of four yards to Clarence Moore and six yards to tight end Todd Heap in the opening half. He added a five-yard TD run and completed an efficient 17-of-23 passes for 159 yards.

"I had a lot of fun. We expected to make some mistakes because of the bye week," McNair said. "We had some false starts but overcame them. I felt comfortable. I got into a rhythm early. Brian came in and put in some plays early that I liked. I knew we could score points - it was a question of whether we would stop ourselves."

Jamal Lewis added a season-high 109 rushing yards on 31 attempts.

"Brian did a grea job. He put us in position to be successful," Lewis said. "We had them (the Saints) off balance. We used all our weapons. We ran a lot of different things. When you get a defense thinking, that's half the battle."

Billick has no such problems with his defense led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis and fellow Pro Bowlers in cornerback Chris McAlister and safety Ed Reed.

But it was the undrafted Prude and Landry, a fifth-round pick, who made the big plays in this one.

Prude, an undrafted rookie of LSU, stepped in front of a pass by Drew Brees and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown with 6:09 left in the second quarter, giving the Ravens a 21-0 lead.

"We're no longer rookies," Prude said. "We're a whole team. The defense is known for being great. I just want to add a little spark to it."

Landry, who attended high school in Louisiana, scored on a 12-yard return midway through the third quarter to provide a 35-7 cushion.

"The defensive line had a great rush and the quarterback got hit as he threw it," Landry said. "I was in the right place at the right time. I had a lot of friends and family in the crowd. It was great to see them and great to get a win."

The Ravens also shut down and knocked out electrifying rookie Reggie Bush, forcing him into mistakes along the way. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner lost a fumble and threw an interception on a halfback pass in the first quarter. He finished with 16 rushing yards and five receiving.

"We played football. That's all it is. It doesn't matter who it is," Ray Lewis said.

Bush limped to the locker room late in the fourth quarter, favoring his left ankle.

"Everything was negative so he's all right," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

Brees completed 24-of-45 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions while also losing a fumble for the Saints (5-2), who lost for the first time in four games at the Superdome.

"You can't expect to win turning the ball over five times with 10 penalties," Payton said. "All the things that we preach about that keep you from winning games hurt us today. It wasn't just offense, defense or special teams. I have to do a better job preparing this team."

Saints rookie Marques Colston had six catches for 163 yards and two TDs.

The teams traded turnovers on the first two possessions, with Lewis and Bush losing fumbles.

Baltimore cashed the miscue by Bush into points as McNair scored on a five-yard draw.

On their second possession, the Saints reached the Ravens 18. Bush attempted to find Colston in the end zone on a halfback pass but was intercepted by Ray Lewis in the end zone.

McNair directed an impressive 11-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a four-yard TD pass to Clarence Moore with 12:20 left in the first half for a 14-0 lead.

After Prude's interception increased the lead, Brees found Joe Horn for a 32-yard TD with 4:08 left in the half to pull the Saints within 21-7.

But the Ravens responded, moving 71 yards in 10 plays. McNair's six-yard TD pass to Heap with 10 seconds left in the half went through the hands of linebacker Scott Fujita.

Landry all but sealed things with his interception return with 8:05 left in third quarter. The Ravens also shut down the Saints' running game, holding them to 35 yards on 14 carries.

Brees had touchdown passes of 47 and 25 yards to Colston in the fourth quarter.

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