Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron
November 25, 2012
We'll reminisce about that game-saving catch-and-run by Ray Rice for a long time.
When Ray Rice caught the shortest Hail Mary pass I have ever seen, the Ravens running back was 28 yards away from the first-down marker. For the past five years, we have seen the pint-sized powerhouse make the near-impossible jaw-droppingly possible, but this was pushing it. The Ravens trailed the San Diego Chargers by three points late in the fourth quarter, and after their game-tying drive came to a screeching halt then shifted into reverse, they faced a fourth-and-29 play to keep hope alive. But when his receivers were unable to get open down the field and his pocket began to collapse, quarterback Joe Flacco wanted to "give someone a chance," he later said, instead of just chucking it up for grabs. He figured his best bet was to flip the ball to Rice, one of the NFL's most dangerous players in the open field.
As Rice turned upfield, all of the green grass in front of him quickly became littered with powder blue. He first met resistance as he crossed midfield. With three Chargers defenders bearing down on him, he swerved to the left and out of their grasp, like the fastest kid on the block outrunning the neighborhood bullies. When he got to the 40-yard line, he got a crushing block from wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who blew up Chargers safety Eric Weddle. Rice dove between a pair of defenders to cross the 33-yard line, an official review confirming what had seemed impossible as Flacco first threw the 3-yard check-down. After the Ravens tied the score and won the game with another Justin Tucker field goal late in overtime, wide receiver Torrey Smith and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said that it was the most impressive play they had seen in person. Those guys have watched -- and made -- plenty of plays in their football lives.
It's a wonderful thought as much as it is a scary one, but someday, I will be chatting with a son or a granddaughter or some kind of small, curious child with a sizable chunk of my DNA, and they might ask me what it was like to watch Rice play football. That play Sunday will be among the ones that come to mind. It didn't come in a playoff game like his tone-setting touchdown run in New England and he didn't make anyone look silly with stiff arms and spin moves, like something out of a video game. Rice caught a prayer, tucked it under his arm, and carried his team when they needed a miracle, his sheer will driving his legs and pushing the ball past the marker. This play will be one to remember when they sort out the AFC playoff seeding at season's end. But its memory will linger with me for a lot longer than that.