The Ravens beat the Browns 24-10, but lose all-pro guard Marshal Yanda for the season with a fractured ankle. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
When Buck Allen caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to give the Ravens a 14-0 lead with 7:17 left in the second quarter of Sunday's home opener against the Cleveland Browns, his celebration was no accident.
Channeling former Raven and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, who wore the same No. 37 jersey that Allen wears, the running back performed Sanders' customary "Prime Time" dance before emphatically spiking the ball. Allen admitted to studying Sanders' moves before the contest.
"I just wanted to dedicate that to Deion," he said. "I'm a big Deion fan. He is a great, great, great athlete. Usually, I would do my dance that I did last year, but I figured I'd get in there and why not?"
Slick moves aside, Allen has blossomed in his third year after enduring a quiet season last fall. With Danny Woodhead on injured reserve until at least Week 10 because of a left hamstring injury, Allen has passed starter Terrance West (Northwestern High, Towson University) in carries (35 to 27) and rushing yards (137 to 102). West has two touchdown runs to none for Allen, but the latter is simply happy to be more involved in the offense.
"I've been through worse," he said. "Me personally, I know what I'm capable of doing. I never got down on myself. I believed in my preparation, I believed in my work ethic, and I never got down on myself. I never questioned, 'Why am I going through this?'"
While Allen's touchdown catch – his first since Dec. 6, 2015 – was his biggest highlight, his 37-yard scamper through the heart of the Browns defense may have been the back-breaker. That play set up quarterback Joe Flacco's 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Macin with one second left before halftime and gave the Ravens a 21-7 advantage.
"Now, he has to keep it going, but he's making plays for us," coach John Harbaugh noted. "To come up with that run at the end of the half, that's a big-league play."