In the 24 hours after running back Ray Rice stunned the San Diego Chargers with his game-saving catch-and-run, the football world — teammates, fans, and former NFL players turned talking heads — marveled at the play, saying it was among the greatest individual efforts they had seen.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes Rice’s remarkable play is “going to go down in history.”
“We’re all going to talk about the fourth-and-29,” he said at his Monday news conference. “I said [Sunday] night it was the greatest play I’ve ever seen or been a part of. It was 11 guys who made the play happen. One guy had a real big role in it. It was a sensational play by Ray Rice.”
With 1:59 left in the fourth quarter of the 16-13 overtime win, the Ravens needed 29 yards to convert on fourth down and keep their hopes alive. They sent four receivers streaking down the field, but when quarterback Joe Flacco could no longer wait for one to run open, he dumped the ball off to Rice instead of throwing it up for grabs.
Rice caught the ball, crossed midfield then quickly side-stepped three Chargers defenders. As Rice closed in on the first-down marker, wide receiver Anquan Boldin laid a crushing block on Chargers safety Eric Weddle —Harbaugh said it was “as physical of a block as you will ever see” — giving Rice just enough running room to dive for the marker between a pair of defenders.
After officials did a thorough review on instant replay, re-spotted the ball and brought out the chains for a measurement, the improbable was confirmed. Rice got the first down by inches.
The Ravens tied the game with a Justin Tucker field goal and won with another late in overtime.
The win, coupled with a Pittsburgh Steelers loss, puts the Ravens in position to possibly secure their second straight AFC North title Sunday. They would clinch if they beat the Steelers, who could get quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back, and the Cincinnati Bengals lose to the Chargers.
Harbaugh praised his players for positioning themselves well with the win, but he stopped short of saying that Rice’s game-saving play should be considered a turning point for his 9-2 team.
“I admire the play. Like I said, it’s the greatest play I’ve seen,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see what it means if we can capitalize on it and stack some success on top of that.”