Whether it’s been through interviews with reporters or private conversations with teammates and coaches, Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace has all but begged to have the ball thrown his way more over the regular season’s final seven games. A season after eclipsing the 1,000-yard plateau, Wallace entered Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers with just 20 catches for 267 yards and as one of the faces of a downfield passing game that hasn’t been able to get on track.
With the ball at the Packers’ 21-yard line early in the third quarter, the Ravens quarterback and his favorite deep target peered upfield and sensed an opportunity. Joe Flacco noticed that the Packers were giving a single-high safety look and Wallace, who was running a fade route, was getting man-to-man coverage.
It was one of the rare occasions for the Ravens passing game this year when everything set up perfectly. Wallace just had to catch the ball, and that was hardly a given. Packers cornerback Damarious Randall ran stride for stride with him, played him to the outside and even had the wide receiver’s right arm locked. However, Flacco put the ball right on Wallace, who made a nifty grab with his left hand, the touchdown catch helping the Ravens to a key 23-0 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field.
“I can’t talk to my coaches and tell them, ‘They’ve got to give me the ball and do this and do that,’ and then I don’t make a play. I’m like, ‘By any means,’ ” Wallace said after a game in which he caught four passes for 56 yards and scored his third touchdown of the season. “Reading the coverage and the safeties coming down, I knew I had a fade route and I knew I was going to be the read on that play, so you just got to lock in. Just make a play. That’s what I do. I’ve been doing that for a long time, just making plays. My team needed it and I’m happy I was able to do it.”
Wallace celebrated the touchdown by taking a Lambeau Leap, spotting a few Ravens fans in the front row behind the end zone and diving toward their arms.
The play proved to be one of the few highlights for the Ravens passing game, which got back running back Danny Woodhead, but still looked similar to the unit that struggled through the first nine games before last week’s bye.
The Ravens finished with 219 total yards of offense and went 3-for-14 on third down.
“Not enough,” said Wallace when asked whether the offense made some strides Sunday. “Obviously, we won 23-0. That’s always great. Our defense is playing championship football. Our offense, we have to catch up. We made plays to seal the game. That’s great. We know we have the players to do it. We just have to execute. It’s tough in this league, but we’ll find a way. Hopefully, as this season goes, we have six games left, we can grind it and we can find a way to make those plays that we need to get 30-40 points when we need them.”
An under-the-weather Flacco hardly played poorly, completing 22 of 28 passes for 183 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked three times and pressured throughout as the Packers took advantage of a Ravens offensive line that was juggled again Sunday with starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley unable to play because of a concussion.
Flacco made an ill-advised decision to try to force the ball into a well-covered Woodhead right outside the Packers’ end zone midway through the second quarter. The ball was intercepted by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, costing the Ravens at least three points.
However, he somewhat redeemed himself with the throw to Wallace, which came on virtually the same part of the field.
“The safeties were trying to mess with me, depending on who was coming down and whether they were going to roll down or not, but they were pressing the slot and I knew if I had single-high [coverage] and Mike was pressed in the slot. That is where I was going to go,” Flacco said.
“I kind of threw one tentatively earlier in the game to Danny and I got picked off. It was just a bad throw really. I should have hit back shoulder. And that one I just threw it and Mike did a great job catching the ball. I didn't really see much of how he came down with it, but it looked like it was a pretty darn good catch.”
Wallace called it one of the tougher catches of his career. It all but put the game away, too, giving the Ravens a 13-0 lead in a game that their defense was dominating.
“I only had one hand,” Wallace said. “I wasn’t trying to put up one hand like that. That was just the way it was. We were fighting the whole way. Before the ball even came down, I knew my arm was stuck, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to make this catch.’ I just locked in on the ball and by the grace of God, I was able to make a play, baby.”