|Fourth and 29? No problem for Ravens RB Ray Rice. His catch and run helped the Ravens tie the game and eventually get the victory against the Chargers on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
It was the best play Ravens coach John Harbaugh has ever seen or been a part of.
It was something Ray Rice dubbed, "Check down, hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle." In Baltimore Ravens' history, it may go down as "The Play," or simply, "Fourth-and-29."
Whatever historians, fans or the organization want to call Rice's catch and run on a fourth-and-29 on Sunday in San Diego, this particular play saved the day and helped propel the Ravens to a 16-13 win.
"Eleven guys made the play happen," Harbaugh said. "One guy had a real big role in it. It was a sensational play by Ray Rice."
The play began with receiver Anquan Boldin, lined up in the left slot, going in motion to his right before returning to his original starting position. A few seconds later, quarterback Joe Flacco took the snap out of the shotgun and instantly began going through his progressions down the field.
All of his receiving targets were running vertical routes, given the down and distance. Flacco initially wanted to find receiver Torrey Smith, but Smith kept with his route against a defense that dropped back past the first down marker.
Flacco felt the only chance the Ravens had was to put the ball in the hands of the best player on the field. He dumped the ball off to Rice, who was standing just in front of the line of scrimmage. Three defenders rushed the quarterback, meaning Rice had about 28 yards to go and eight defenders to beat.
Rice began running down the right side of the field as three Chargers defenders converged looking to make a play to seal the game. Rice recognized this, and on a dime, cut back to his left. Two defenders behind the first three Rice beat were now out of position as Rice moved across the middle of the field, looking to get the ball past the first-down marker.
At this point, only one Chargers defender had an angle to bring Rice down from behind before the first down, and that was safety Eric Weddle. But as Weddle approached, ready to make the tackle, Boldin rushed back and delivered a crushing block, leveling Weddle to the ground. Weddle ultimately sustained a concussion on the play.
"Anquan Boldin came back and had as good of a football block -- a legal, football block, as physical of a football block -- that you'll ever see in football," Harbaugh said. "That's Anquan Boldin. That's who he is. That made the play happen."
Rice needed to get the ball just past the Chargers' 34-yard line for a first down. But once he got to the 36, Rice had Chargers defensive backs Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason staring at him, hoping to end any last hopes Baltimore had.
Rice lowered his shoulder and got as low as he possibly could before touching his knee to the grass. After hitting the ground with his arms reached out and hands holding the football, the officials ruled the ball down at the 33.
With the clock under two minutes, the officials booth reviewed the play. After a considerable amount of time passed, the officials ruled the ball down at the 33 1/2 yard line, meaning the first down chains, which had been moved, needed to return to the original spot. On a second measurement, the Ravens got the news they hoped for, which was a first down.
The Ravens capitalized on the conversion and got a game-tying field goal out of the drive, and ultimately went on to win the game.
"We're all going to talk about the fourth-and-29," Harbaugh said. "It's going to go down in history. It was a remarkable play. I said (Sunday) night, it was the greatest play I've ever seen or been a part of."
Follow Ravens reporter Jason Butt on Twitter: @CBSRavens and @JasonButtCBS.