The lateral bug is spreading

Ed Reed has been terrifying Ravens coaches for years with his penchant for lateraling.

Now, his teammates are getting in on the act, and head coach John Harbaugh can’t be thrilled about it.

Safety Haruki Nakamura was the one at fault yesterday, when he picked off a tipped Matt Cassel pass three plays into the third quarter and then promptly gave the ball right back to Kansas City.

Nakamura looked to turn the play upfield after grabbing the interception, and as he was getting tackled, decided to lateral the ball to Reed, who was a couple yards behind him. The ball fell to the turf, and was recovered by Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

As soon as Nakamura came to the sideline, he got an earful from Harbaugh, but the third-year safety certainly didn’t need to be told he had screwed up. He was well aware he’d made a terrible decision.

“Stupid, stupid play,” Nakamura told reporters after the game. “I knew I made a boneheaded play. It was just stupid. I should have never put myself in that situation.”

Reed is partially at fault here as well, because he was clapping at Nakamura during the return, trying to get his fellow safety to pitch him the ball, and when a three-year veteran has Reed instructing him to do something, he’s going to listen.

Luckily for the Ravens and for Nakamura, the Baltimore defense held tough and forced the Chiefs to turn the ball over on downs later in the drive, so the botched lateral didn’t come back to bite them.

Harbaugh has said that when it comes to Reed, he lets his seven-time Pro Bowler take chances when he’s got the ball in his hands because of the big-play possibilities. He can put up with a Reed fumble every now and then, because most of the time when Reed tosses the ball around, good things happen.

But Harbaugh needs to make it very clear to his team that unless they’re wearing a jersey with the No. 20 on the back, their top priority is taking care of the football once they’ve secured a turnover. Defensive touchdowns are great, but in the playoffs, ball security should be the primary focus, especially now that the Ravens have an offense that can turn those takeaways into points.

Ed Reed is Ed Reed. The rest of the Ravens are not, and they shouldn’t try to start acting like him.

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