Ravens safety Earl Thomas III faced a decision as Nick Chubb accelerated down the right sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
He could try to catch the Browns’ star running back and deny Cleveland a two-touchdown lead. Or he could ease up, knowing that Chubb was too fast and too far away, and that a full-sprint chase might imperil the health of his hamstrings.
Thomas decided on the latter strategy, removing himself from the play, an 88-yard touchdown, that defined the Ravens’ 40-25 loss. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he trusted the newcomer to know his body and the circumstances of the play.
“If that’s what he said about his hamstrings — he was a good bit behind Chubb in that situation, as I watched the tape — he wasn’t going to catch him,” Harbaugh said. "Yeah, we want everybody to finish, but if he felt some tightness in his hamstrings right there, I’m glad he’s out of the game healthy, in all honesty.
“I want everybody running to the ball as much as they can, but ... I certainly don’t want a hamstring pull from my starting safety right there, so I take him at his word. You know why I say that: Because I watched the game and saw how hard he played. The guy was all over the field. He made a bunch of hits. I respect that.”
Thomas, who finished with a team-high eight tackles, probably wouldn’t have been able to track down Chubb at full strength. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Chubb hit 21.95 mph on the toss play, the fastest speed reached on a touchdown this season.
Harbaugh said starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury, does not have a “long-term injury” and will not need surgery. The Ravens will monitor the injury this week, which Harbaugh on Sunday said “flared up.”
"I don’t even know if I want to categorize it, because it’s just something that he has to deal with,” he said Monday.
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Harbaugh also said tight end Mark Andrews, whose foot injury limited him to just one practice last week, came out of Sunday’s loss “well.” After two straight 100-yard receiving games to open the season, Andrews has 46 yards over the past two weeks.