After a week of trash talking between Matt Elam and Calvin Johnson, the rookie safety got the last laugh Monday in Baltimore’s 18-16 win at Detroit.
Following Justin Tucker’s 61-yard field goal that put the Ravens ahead with under a minute to play, Elam stepped in front of an overthrown pass from Matthew Stafford and made the game-clinching interception, the first of his career (watch).
“I saw an overthrown ball and I just said to myself, ‘Make the play.’ I have been so hard on myself all year because I didn’t have any interceptions. I felt like I was a first round draft bust because I wasn’t making plays,” Elam told CSN Baltimore.
When asked Wednesday how Baltimore’s secondary would cover Johnson, Elam called the record-setting receiver “pretty old” and suggested he wasn’t physical. Megatron responded the following day by saying he would show Elam what “old-man strength” is all about.
Elam’s play did the talking in the end. In addition to his interception, he led the Ravens with a season-high 10 tackles.
Johnson finished with 98 yards receiving, but had no touchdowns, two drops and failed to catch a critical two-point conversion attempt that would have put the Lions up by three points.
Although Baltimore coach John Harbaugh probably prefers his players not give someone like Johnson bulletin board material, he thought Elam rose to the occasion.
“Matt learned a lesson in the sense of how he said things, but Matt didn’t mean anything derogatory,” Harbaugh said. ”He really got taken to the task for it.
“I’m proud of Matt for the way he handled it. He did the thing he needed to do. He played and he trusted his teammates.”
Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said Elam’s performance against Detroit could be a defining moment for him.
“I’m very proud of Matt,” Webb told The Baltimore Sun. “After he made those comments, the guys were messing with him, teasing him a little bit. You could tell by how he was focused this week, he was into it, so I knew he was going to have a big game.
“He was just trying to back up his words. I’m just so proud of him that the pick landed in his hands to end that game, to let him know that he’s here, that he’s a part of it. He needs to be known.”
Elam, described as emotional in the locker room, discussed his comments about Johnson.
“No disrespect to Megatron, I didn’t mean it that way,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “I just feel like it’s Monday night, everybody is watching. You’re going to give your best game anyway. It shouldn’t be somebody calling somebody out to play a good game.
“He’s one of the greatest receivers in the game. I have no disrespect for him. It was just my competitive spirit. I just want to win.”