It might seem simplistic to suggest that wide receiver Mike Wallace’s 66-yard catch off a long pass from Joe Flacco ignited the Ravens’ 44-20 rout of the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. But it did lead to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to tight end Benjamin Watson that kick-started the offense’s most explosive showing of the season.
But when Detroit coach and former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was asked to assess what happened to his defense, he circled back to Wallace’s play near the start of the second quarter.
“Wallace got loose on the one, which, obviously, he’s one of those guys that can take the top off your defense if you’re not in position to make plays,” Caldwell said. “He’s going to catch it and give you some problems. We didn’t do a good job of covering the deep portion of the field. That’s something that we just have to get better at.”
The Ravens might have finally rediscovered their deep passing game. Wallace’s reception was the offense’s longest play from scrimmage this season, and Wallace and fellow wideout Chris Moore added a pair of 23-yard gains to give the unit its highest number of passing plays of at least 23 yards in a game so far.
Even after Sunday’s performance, the team still ranks last in the NFL in catches of 20 yards or more and is tied for 20th in receptions of at least 40 yards. But wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said he is hopeful that this most recent showing is a positive omen for the future.
“Anytime you have the ability to stretch the field, it’s always a good thing,” he said. “Mike was able to get deep a few times. Some other times, guys were deep and whether the timing was off or whatnot, that’s what we want to get. Anytime we have an opportunity to take advantage of one of those deep balls out on the field, we definitely want to do that.”
Wallace continues to serve as a catalyst for the offense. He has 26 catches of 50-plus yards in his career, including eight since 2016, which ranks as the highest total in the league.
At first, Wallace downplayed his catch, calling it “probably like the 15th-biggest play of the game.”
But Wallace agreed when asked whether his big plays can spark the team.
“Yes, that is what I always tell my coaches,” he said. “I just want to make spark plays. That does so much for your team that people don’t even know. It does a lot for the fans, it does a lot for you all [media], it does a lot for us, everybody. It is just excitement. Excitement happens when you make plays like that. So it makes [outside linebacker Matthew] Judon come off the edge faster, it makes [outside linebacker Terrell Suggs] come off the edge faster, it makes [free safety] Eric [Weddle] backpedal faster, it makes everybody get hyped. So you need those plays throughout the game, [and] we were able to make them. We made a lot of those plays.”
Maclin said no one should be surprised by Wallace’s proficiency at manufacturing long-ball opportunities.
“That’s what he does,” Maclin said. “That’s what he’s been doing ever since he’s been in the league. He can still run, and as long as you can run, you’ll always have a job in this league.”
Flacco said the offense figured it could attack Detroit downfield as it did with Wallace’s deep post because the Minnesota Vikings had done that in a 30-23 win against the Lions on Thanksgiving.
“It definitely was key,” Flacco said. “We came out of the huddle, and I saw the safety down low on the side and definitely thought we were going to have a shot at it, and he went and got the ball. Then obviously, it’s huge to get in the end zone at that point, too. We’ve struggled to get the ball in the end zone at times, and it was really big to get [that].”
Not everything was peachy though. Coach John Harbaugh pointed out that several receivers dropped passes early in the game.
“Guys are open — they’re getting open — they’re running good routes, and we’re just not catching the ball,” Harbaugh said. “But we didn’t let it overcome us. We kept fighting through it, and started moving the ball and making some huge plays. Mike Wallace really kicked us off — – Joe and Mike with the long pass.”