Usually, when an NFL offense is facing a 4th-and-29 situation, it’s thinking one of three things: punt, punt and punt. In dire situations like the one that the Baltimore Ravens faced with 1:59 to go in the fourth quarter, down three points on their own 37-yard line, punting wasn’t an option.
Tossing the ball to Ray Rice and watching him outrun everyone, however, appeared to be a fine decision against the San Diego Chargers defense.
After the overwhelming majority of the green required for a Baltimore first down was vacated by streaking receivers and trailing defensive backs, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw a dump-off pass to Rice at the line of scrimmage.
Forget about making individual defenders miss: Rice caught the ball and avoided piles of Chargers at a time in the most unlikely of first-down conversions.
That’s simply not supposed to happen.
If San Diego tackled Rice with any real estate to spare between the line of scrimmage and the first-down marker, it would have won the game. That didn’t happen and a defensive effort that resulted in just 10 points allowed through 58 minutes transformed into an overtime loss.
Rice is a phenomenal player. Nothing should be taken away from the Baltimore star running back—except, well, a first-down conversion on 4th-and-29. Another reason why this play is so inexcusable for the Chargers defense is because this wasn’t a surprising source of offense: It was Ray Rice.
In a Hail Mary situation against the Baltimore offense, a defense’s first priority should be to take away Torrey Smith and the deep ball. San Diego did that. The next order of business is to wrap up and tackle anyone who happens to advance the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.
That’s where the Chargers ran into problems.
It has to be incredibly frustrating to do so many things right throughout an afternoon for it all to be nullified by one rapid-fire series of catastrophic errors—and San Diego is unfortunately familiar with events like those.
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