Simply by lining up under center on the Ravens' first offensive snap against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, quarterback Jimmy Clausen became an avatar for a season that has gone wrong amid an onslaught of offensive injuries.
Claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears as a contingency plan following the season-ending knee injury to starter Joe Flacco and forced into action when a battered Matt Schaub couldn't start this week because of a chest injury, Clausen became the third starting quarterback for the Ravens in four weeks.
And though the 35-6 dismantling Seattle handed their hosts featured little by way of encouragement, the play of Clausen could force a decision as to who is best suited to lead the Ravens offense through the final three games of the season.
Clausen threw for a career-high 274 yards, completed 23 of 40 passes with one interception, did most everything he was tasked with in the gameplan and impressed his new coaches in the process.
"It seemed like he did pretty well," coach John Harbaugh said. "He operated. He has been here for [three] weeks. … I thought he made some good throws, probably some throws that he would want back. But going in there, in that situation, and to be under fire like that against the defense that we were playing, it speaks very well for him."
Clausen's path to Baltimore this season, coincidentally, included one start as the backup against the Seahawks while he was with the Bears. That gameplan, in what became a 26-0 Seattle win in which Clausen threw for 63 yards, didn't call for him to throw the ball much. The Bears were punchless that day, and Clausen took the blame.
The plan Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman drew up allowed Clausen to open it up, and Harbaugh liked how the quarterback handled it. That started from the beginning, when Clausen completed a pass up the seam to undrafted rookie wide receiver Daniel Brown for 31 yards.
"That's a play we practiced all week," Brown said. "We knew that we were going to run it early … and we knew one of us was going to get it."
Clausen did well early in the game to hit his open receivers and not attempt risky throws. He moved the Ravens into the red zone for the first time with a 23-yard strike to Jeremy Butler in the first quarter.
And after the Seahawks pulled two scores ahead with a quick-strike touchdown inside the two-minute warning of the first half, a pair of long completions to Kamar Aiken earned the Ravens an improbable field goal.
But that's where Clausen quibbles with his performance — the Ravens got deep into Seahawks territory three times, and came away with a pair of field goals.
"We moved the ball well, but once we got down in the red zone, we couldn't score," Clausen said. "We just didn't make enough big plays to win the game."
Clausen spent most of the game avoiding the right side of the field, where Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman patrolled and eventually intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter. He also lamented the late, fourth-down pass to Brown that would have given the Ravens their only touchdown but was delivered a little high after Clausen felt pressure from the Seahawks' game-wrecking defensive end, Michael Bennett.
Clausen faced a Seahawks defense that entered the game second in the NFL in total yards allowed. He didn't get much run with the first-team offense until this week, when it became clear Schaub might not recover in time from the pounding he took in Miami. And nearly every weapon at his disposal was either a reserve or on the practice squad at the beginning of this once-hopeful Ravens season.
It all took some getting used to for Clausen. He and the new receivers got some extra time at practice this week, and they used every second of it.
"That's what guys do in [organized team activities], in minicamp and in training camp and on into the season," Clausen said. "But just to work with those guys this week helped me a lot. There's still things I need to figure out, but that's just working together and getting our timing down. That takes time."
Harbaugh said the quarterback position would be evaluated this week ahead of a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs. Schaub's status is unclear, and Clausen certainly has a claim to the last three games as he looks to make an impression on the Ravens and the rest of the NFL.
"Every single time you step on the field, you're being evaluated," he said. "That's my mindset going in every single week, because being a backup or whatever it is, you're always getting evaluated by the head coach, the [general manager], the scouts, other scouts. That's just the way this league is … so getting the opportunity to go out today and play was great."