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Backups Making Plays

Several unheralded players stepped up to make plays against the Lions.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Sunday, December 13th, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

The Ravens came into Sunday’s 48-3 win over the Detroit Lions with injuries affecting several key starters, but one would hardly notice with several unheralded backups stepping in to contribute.

Wideout Mark Clayton (knee), left tackle Jared Gaither (foot) and safety Ed Reed (groin/foot) were all scratched prior to kickoff, with Clayton’s status known on Friday. 

In Gaither and Reed’s cases, it was more of a last-minute decision.

But it was no big deal for the Ravens in their dominating victory.  Oniel Cousins was elevated for Gaither, and Tom Zbikowski got the nod for Reed. 

And while Kelley Washington went with the first team for Clayton, he left with an ankle injury, making room for Demetrius Williams to make some plays.

“That’s what we talked about in the locker room,” said head coach John Harbaugh.  “We talked about the O-line and we talked about the secondary. We had guys out. For Ed Reed to be out and for us to be able to stay on top of a player like 81 [Lions receiver Calvin Johnson].”

Johnson, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound monster, was limited to only four receptions for 37 yards, in part because of Zbikowski’s center-fielding.  Zbikowski logged the second interception of his career when he picked-off Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the fourth quarter.

“I’ve gotten what every back-up or special teams player can ask for—an opportunity,” Zbikowski said.  “You’ve just got to make the best of it when you get in there.”

The performance of the offensive line was also a main factor in the win.  Subbing for Gaither, rookie Michael Oher slid from the right to the left side, opening a chance for Cousins to have his first-career start.

Not only did the Ravens keep Detroit from sacking quarterback Joe Flacco all game, the Ravens logged 308 rushing yards, the second-most in franchise history.

“That right there just shows that it’s next man up, but for us, we have guys like Michael [Oher] who can move from right [tackle] to left,” said running back Ray Rice, who posted a career-best 166 yards on the ground.  “Not many guys can do that. I haven’t seen it done. It’s usually another guy that’s played left tackle. Mike moving from right to left, we didn’t miss a beat.

“Oneil Cousins really did a great job today. If you watch the guy, he’s physical, he just got after it. We didn’t miss a beat in the running game, passing game. One thing we wanted to say was, ‘Keep the guys off Joe [Flacco].’ And I’m not sure Joe got touched too many times today, but it’s great when you’ve got guys that can move around like that, that’s on the whole offense.”

And Williams, a target of much consternation among fans for not being able to get on the field, set up a third-quarter touchdown when he wrestled the ball out of cornerback Phillip Buchanon’s hands for a 34-yard gain.

“I have confidence that they’re going to beat the guy one-on-one, so all I need to do is put them in a position to beat that guy and worry about the other guys,” Flacco said.  “And today we did a good job of doing that. Our guys did a good job of going up and making plays.”

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