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It can’t be easy to be Mark Clayton this week.
Football players always say they forget about the last play, no matter what, but when you drop a pass at a critical moment in as close a game as the Ravens’ 27-21 loss to the New England Patriots, how can that not weigh on your mind?
Give Clayton credit, though. He was man enough to own up to the mistake in the post-game locker room, giving ample time to reporters to ask the inevitable question. Take me seriously when I say that not a lot of players would do that.
“Obviously we needed a touchdown,” Clayton said about his fourth-down drop that would have continued a potential game-winning drive as the clock wound down. “It came down to fourth down. We had a really good call. I got open and just dropped the ball. We are fighters. We could go up and down the field and do what we can to keep ourselves in the game. We gave ourselves an opportunity to win. Flat out drop.
“It was a perfect ball. Joe [Flacco] put it on the money. To not come up with it is tough. It cost us the game.”
Enlightening. Refreshing. Clayton, who caught five balls for 45 yards, may have caused some grumbling in Baltimore, but you have to respect him.
Head coach John Harbaugh believes that Clayton will easily bounce back, though, and I believe him. I saw Clayton at team headquarters on Monday, and he was upbeat and interacting with his teammates as if the page had already been turned.
“Mark’s resilient, Mark’s tough, Mark’s confident,” Harbaugh said. “He’s made so many plays here in the past. He wants that one back, but that wasn’t the play of the game. It’s easy to look at one play. You can look at 10 plays during that game and say that was the play that made the difference.
“All the guys involved in those plays feel the same way Mark does. I just think it’s so impressive the way our guys are accountable. Every single guy in our program, player or coach, is so accountable for getting the job done. Beyond that, you go out there and let the chips fall. I feel good about that with our team.”
The rest of the players have moved on, as well.
So much so that Flacco is appearing as the featured guest on FOX 45 Playbook, which is hosted by Clayton and local sportscaster Bruce Cunningham Tuesday night. Solidarity.
(Note: If you want to attend the taping, it is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.)