— Tyrod Taylor prides himself on being an escape artist, dodging defenders with his nimble feet and fast reactions.
The elusive Ravens' backup quarterback didn't take long to demonstrate those traits after replacing resting starter Joe Flacco during the first quarter Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
On his third play of the game, the former Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year broke away from the Bengals' defensive line and faked out safety Chris Crocker in the open field to scamper up the left sideline for a 28-yard scramble.
During the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 23-17 loss, Taylor flashed his mobility again on a quarterback bootleg for a 1-yard touchdown run. Taylor executed the maneuver off a play-action fake where he easily sprinted past lumbering linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.
“I think it went well,” Taylor said. “I think there are some things that I can work on, but I also did some things well.”
In the most extensive playing time of his young NFL career, the second-year quarterback from Virginia Tech also experienced some struggles that go along with his inexperience.
Trying to find tight end Ed Dickson later in the fourth quarter, Taylor's short pass over the middle was deflected by towering Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap batted the football to himself for an interception that he returned 14 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Taylor completed a career-high 15 passes on 25 attempts for 149 yards, no touchdowns and the one interception for a 60.2 quarterback rating. He also rushed for 65 yards on nine carries, averaging 7.2 yards per rush.
“He did a great job as far as working the offense his way, applying all his talents and abilities,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I feel bad that he was backed up so much. When he had some breathing space, he did a tremendous job and made plays for us.”
Although Taylor was unable to engineer a win in relief of Flacco, the former sixth-round draft pick did earn some respect from a Bengals defense that entered the game ranked sixth in the NFL.
Dunlap even mentioned Taylor in the same breath as Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in terms of athleticism.
“After playing him and RGIII, I have a lot more respect for them,” Dunlap said. “With them being speed guys, you can talk about them being soft, but all the hits we took on RGIII and for him to get up, we respect him. Taylor is a heck of an athlete as well.”
Taylor was sacked three times for losses of 30 yards, but handled the contact well. He kept getting up and never fumbled.
“It was fun to get hit a couple of times,” Taylor said. “It's been a while since I've been hit, so it felt good to get real game experience.”
Heading into Sunday's kickoff, Taylor said he knew he was going to play, just not the exact moment when Flacco would leave the game.
Taylor didn't look nervous, but was prone to staring down some of his primary reads.
He nearly had a second interception that would have likely gone for a touchdown. However, the errant throw was dropped by free safety Reggie Nelson.
“You have to go out and be relaxed,” Taylor said. “I'm fortunate to go against a great defense every day in practice. That helps me get ready for the game. I was excited to get to play. When the time comes, you don't look back and you keep trying to get better.”
Unpredictable and difficult to tackle, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder did create some excitement in an otherwise uneventful game with his penchant for leaving the pocket.
It was a major contrast to the playing style of Flacco, who rarely leaves the protective confines of the Ravens' backfield.
“You just kind of hit anything that moves, just block for him,” tight end Billy Bajema said. “If he is scrambling behind the line of scrimmage, then try to get open.
“It's pretty fun playing with a guy like Tyrod because you never know what he's going to do. When he gets scrambling, he can turn anything into a big play.”