"It can't happen. I take it upon myself [it's] something that can't happen," Buck Allen said when asked about his fumble that led to a Kansas City Chief touchdown. "I'm a pro and it's something that shouldn't happen." (Kevin Richardson)
With the Ravens trying to balance their future and their present Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, a key offensive player to the 2015 season and beyond spent all but the first dozen minutes of football on the sidelines.
Rookie running back Buck Allen lost a fumble on the Kansas City 27-yard line with just over three minutes to go in the first quarter of Sunday's 34-14 Ravens loss, and Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.
It was Allen's final carry of the game; his second fumble in as many games was enough to cause coach John Harbaugh sit him down.
"It probably won't carry over, but you play the best players," Harbaugh said. "At running back, the best players don't fumble. Fumbling, it is what it is. You have to hold onto the football. He knows that. I have a lot of love and respect for Buck. No way is buck going to be banished, by any stretch. He has done a lot for us. He has a great future for us. But you have to hold onto the football."
The Ravens were tied at seven when Allen fumbled, and he'd already carried four times for 18 yards at that point. But the remainder of the game, during which the Ravens had nine more designed running plays, was a missed opportunity for Allen.
He had been a focal point of the offense since running back Justin Forsett broke his arm early in the Week 11 win over the St. Louis Rams, carrying 59 times for 199 yards (3.4 yards per carry) with 26 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the four games leading up to Sunday.
After the fumble, he stood on the sideline with his helmet strapped, waiting for a chance to atone for the error. It did not come.
"I didn't ask," Allen said. "I just waited and waited."
Last week, when he fumbled late in the second quarter to put the Seattle Seahawks in position for a touchdown, Allen said he did not get a handle on the ball and needed to be better. There were no such excuses Sunday.
"It can't happen," Allen said. "I take it upon myself. [It's] something that can't happen. I'm a pro, and it's something that shouldn't happen."
He repeated that often in a session with reporters that lasted almost two minutes. He called it a "good strip" by Kansas City linebacker Derrick Morgan, who knocked the ball out in traffic as the Ravens were driving in an attempt to take the lead late in the first quarter.
"It's very frustrating," Allen said of the timing, a disappointment that was compounded as he watched the rest of the game from the bench.
"It hurt," he said. "It hurt to sit on the sideline, to see your team out there playing. Like I said, that shouldn't happen, and I've just got to go out there and come back harder the next week."
Until the Ravens' first drive of the fourth quarter, the running game had produced so little that quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who often scrambled for yardage after being flushed out of the pocket by a relentless Chiefs pass rush, led the team with five carries for 30 yards.
Terrance West (Towson, Northwestern High) ended the game as the featured running back. He carried seven times for 35 yards with a long of 12 yards on a fourth-quarter run from the shotgun formation, and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Undrafted rookie Terrence Magee, playing in his third game this season with the Ravens, gained five total yards on his first two career carries and had one reception for two yards.
Magee said he could tell on the sidelines how disappointed Allen was.
"You can't turn the football over but he's a good guy," Magee said. "You never want to do that. It hurt, and he felt like he let down his team but he's the type of guy that's going to bounce back from that."
"I just told him to keep your head up," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "I fumbled twice last season, so I know the feeling. You know he's going to get another shot. He obviously didn't get it today, but he's a talented guy. He's shown he's reliable before. He'll take his punishment and he'll come back, and I'm sure he'll do a great job."
Harbaugh said turnovers cost the Ravens Sunday, and that is a lesson the team has to learn as it moves forward.
"You have to hold onto the football," he said. "That football belongs to everybody in the organization — every fan, everybody that cares about the Ravens, and it's a precious commodity. You don't win football games when you turn the ball over."