Every week, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players, from that week's game. Today, he looks at tight end Dennis Pitta's touchdown catch in the win over the Chargers.
Obviously, the most incredible play of Sunday's 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers was running back Ray Rice bailing out the Ravens offense with his catch and run on 4th-and-29 late in the fourth quarter. But you have probably watched the play and seen it broken down by analysts about 200 times in the past 48 hours.
Here is my quick, film-based breakdown of that busted play: Ray Rice is freaking ridiculous.
But instead of going through the play yet again (though I'm sure most of you probably wouldn't mind), I chose to break down Dennis Pitta's 4-yard touchdown catch on the previous drive, the team's first offensive touchdown in more than eight quarters. The score, which came with 4:19 left in the fourth quarter, pulled the Ravens within three points of the Chargers and set up Rice's -- and Justin Tucker's -- late heroics.
The Ravens, who produced just 90 yards in the first half, started to come to life in the third quarter and really started to click on their final two drives in regulation after they were forced to use their hurry-up offense out of necessity. Quarterback Joe Flacco drove the Ravens down the field with quick passes to wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith, who then picked up chunks of yardage after the catch.
And when they got down near the goal line, they scored on a play on which Flacco had to make another quick decision.
Facing first-and-goal from San Diego's 4-yard line, the Ravens didn't bother hiding their intentions. They lined up with Flacco alone in the shotgun at the 9-yard line and placed five receivers along the line of scrimmage. Rice lined up on the far right as a receiver with Smith in the slot beside him. Jones was put on the left sideline with fellow wide receiver Anquan Boldin then Pitta lined up in the slot to his right.
Pitta was the first receiver to fire off the line at the snap of the ball. Jones took a couple of steps forward then cut toward the middle of the field, crossing paths with Boldin, who was running an out route to the left. Smith and Rice also ran an in-and-out combination on the right side, with Smith running along the back line of the end zone toward the right pylon in the back corner. But Flacco locked in on his tight end the whole way.
The Chargers, who dropped seven players into coverage, had linebacker Andrew Gachkar matched up on Pitta. The sure-handed tight end ran up the left hash marks, caught Gachkar flat-footed with a head fake and stutter step, then he continued toward the back of the end zone, bending his route into the vacated space. Chargers safety Corey Lynch was also nearby, but he bit on Jones, who was running down the goal line.
The Chargers only sent four rushers, and the Ravens offensive line, which allowed five sacks Sunday, did its job, giving Flacco the two seconds he needed to wait for Pitta to come open in the back of the end zone.
Pitta, who had six catches for 42 yards and that touchdown against the Chargers, and fellow tight end Ed Dickson, who left the game with a knee injury, excel at running those seam routes, especially in the red zone.
The quick-hitting touchdown was not as spectacular as Rice's 29-yard gain on fourth down a few moments later, but it was just as important as the Ravens rallied from 10 points down to win late in overtime.