"When he lined up, and it was a safety. I knew I had him," said Raven WR Mike Wallace when asked about when did he knew he had the defender for a touchdown. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
The Ravens' only touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday – which led to their first win of 2016 – might never have happened if not for a timely decision by quarterback Joe Flacco.
Faced with third-and-1 from its own 34-yard line, the offense was lined up for a run to gain a first down. Noticing the Bills' defense was in a "Cover 0" alignment, which meant there were no defenders deep in the secondary, Flacco switched to a pass play.
Sixty-six yards and several seconds later, wide receiver Mike Wallace crossed the goal line, completing a 66-yard touchdown that gave the Ravens a 10-0 advantage they would hold on to for a 13-7 win at M&T Bank Stadium.
"It was just part of the plan," Flacco said. "They were playing Cover 0. They didn't have any safeties there. I have a handful of things I can go to, but I really don't think I checked into that specific thing all week. I thought they might double [wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.], but if they did, I wanted to give [Wallace] a chance to really win a matchup."
"I knew there was a chance," he said. "On that play, you have a lot of different options. I just got the right coverage. Steve did a great job. He ran across the field, and the safety ran with him. I was one-on-one with the other safety. And if you have a safety on me, he's dead every time."
Bills coach Rex Ryan, a former defensive coordinator and line coach with the Ravens, accepted blame for the defensive call.
"In that situation, they had three wides," Ryan said. "The inside receiver happened to be Mike Wallace, and he made a big play."
The touchdown pass helped redeem an otherwise uneven showing by the offense. Although Flacco completed 23-of-34 passes for 258 yards, he was sacked four times, and the unit drove inside Buffalo's 20 just once before settling for a Justin Tucker 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
And the run game did not provide much support, earning three yards per carry (83 yards on 28 attempts) primarily from Justin Forsett (10 carries for 41 yards) and Terrance West (12 carries for 32 yards).
Coach John Harbaugh said he is looking for the offense to become more explosive.
"We need more of these plays," he said. "We have guys that can do that. We have to improve our passing game, we have to become more precise – protection-wise, timing-wise, throwing- and catching-wise, but we're going to."
The touchdown might restore Wallace's reputation as a deep threat. In 2014 he had 67 catches for 862 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins. Last season he had just 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns with the Minnesota Vikings. The 66-yard catch was his longest since 2012, which was also the last time he had a touchdown reception of at least 60 yards.
"It was extremely big just because I probably haven't had a 50-yard-plus touchdown in three years," said Wallace, who finished with three catches for 91 yards. "It felt good just top get back to that, just to let them know that we're not dead. A lot of people wrote me off. They don't think I have it, but I've got something for them. I told you all that from Day 1. Nothing's going to change. We're just going to keep pounding and pounding and pounding. They better get ready because I'm coming."
Wallace brings a speed element the offense has missed since Torrey Smith left for the San Francisco 49ers after the 2014 season. Flacco certainly seemed to enjoy watching Wallace fly past Williams and then apply a stiff-arm to get into the end zone.
"Overall, it was pretty simple, and his speed got the job done," Flacco said. "It was a really easy throw. Nobody was back there. He did a great job beating the guys with his speed. I think you can see his athleticism because after he ran so well, he was able to stiff-arm the guy and make sure he got into the end zone. Getting in the end zone there is huge because when you get down there, it's not always easy to put it in."