In a span of 48 hours, Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley went from a nearly two-week absence while on the reserve/COVID-19 list to being thrust into the most extensive playing time of his young career.
Taking over for a hobbled Robert Griffin III, who injured his hamstring, McSorley was tasked with bringing a Ravens team that was without several starters back from a 12-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.
With the Ravens placing Griffin on injured reserve Friday and the unknown availability of Lamar Jackson, who remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list but could return ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, McSorley is now bracing for the first start of his NFL career.
McSorley was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, giving him just one socially distanced walk-through to get reacquainted with his teammates and coaches in-person before Wednesday’s game.
“A big part of last week was having to be on the mental side of it,” McSorley said Friday of his preparation. “Obviously being able to be in the Zoom meetings was really helpful. I had a lot of time with Coach [James] Urban and Coach [Greg] Roman, just being in the meetings and being able to talk with them. Going over the game plan a bunch, that was the big thing about last week.
“And then, once I was able to be cleared and kind of get back with the team, it was getting as many reps as possible, just kind of getting back in the swing of things before the game.”
In just two possessions and six pass attempts, McSorley came off the bench and injected life into an otherwise dormant passing offense for much of the afternoon. The Ravens’ sole passing first down in the game came from McSorley’s 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown to wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
It was McSorley’s first career touchdown pass and brought the team’s deficit to just five points. But the Steelers picked up three first downs on the ensuing possession and were able to run out the clock for a 19-14 win, depriving McSorley of the opportunity to finish the improbable comeback.
“I think it just speaks to his preparation and the fact that he was able to prepare without reps,” coach John Harbaugh said of McSorley. “He hadn’t even been in the building for a number of days and he was in the Zoom meetings to his credit and he really studied, obviously. It shows, he made a great read on the touchdown throw, understood how the Steelers play that coverage and recognized the coverage and made the throw. Of course, Marquise made a nice play. But all those things, the way he operated was very positive.”
After drafting McSorley with a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft, the Ravens floated a possible Taysom Hill-like role for him on special teams but it never materialized. Despite some shaky showings in a condensed training camp with no preseason, McSorley was able to fend off practice squad quarterback Tyler Huntley for a spot on the 53-man roster. McSorley was inactive for every game this season before being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 on Nov. 20 and his late appearance in Wednesday’s game.
Should McSorley start against the Cowboys, there likely won’t be any deviation from the offense run under Jackson or Griffin. On the team’s second play with McSorley in the game, Roman turned to the inverted veer concept that has been a staple for the offense this season. Two plays later, McSorley picked up a big fourth-down conversion on a quarterback sweep.
“I’ve always felt as if he was capable of coming in and playing at a high level,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “Given the opportunity, I know that he can play at a high level. And I’ve got a lot of respect in the way that he carries himself, how consistent he approaches the game, how consistent he is once he takes command in the huddle. … Obviously, we fell short, but I’ve got a lot of trust in him and his abilities.”
And a start on Tuesday night wouldn’t just be McSorley’s first in a meaningful game since facing Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day in 2019. It’d be another opportunity to add to his growing Tik Tok legend.
“The internet kind of takes over from there,” McSorley said of the social media reaction to his touchdown pass. “[You] can’t really control all that stuff all the time. It’s just been a good time, I kind of try and have fun with it wherever I can and focus on what I can here every single day, just practicing and preparing, whatever I can do here.
“All that other internet stuff will take care of itself, I guess.”
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Line: Ravens by 7