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Joe Flacco running quarterback draws?
Haloti Ngata running routes as a wide receiver?
Ray Rice serving as the Ravens’ goal line tailback?
Those were just three of the somewhat unusual sightings at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday versus the Broncos.
It all feeds into Baltimore’s versatility, which not only gives New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick more to study this week, but also could spell more long-term success for the Ravens.
“[Versatility is] really important because it’s more things for a defense to defend,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We talk about defending the width and the depth of a field, and that probably goes within that.”
Flacco’s two draw plays worked magnificently. The first, when the Ravens spread wide, went for nine yards. Two plays later, Flacco tucked the ball again and pushed Baltimore to the 1-yard line on the game’s opening drive.
Ngata’s time as a wide receiver wasn’t as successful, but Harbaugh defended the decision. The Ravens tried to get their defensive tackle open in the back of the end zone on a fourth-down play action, but Ngata collided with safety Darcel McBath and Flacco was sacked for a 14-yard loss.
Harbaugh said he held his breath when Ngata went down with an injury, but that didn’t change his mind on the option. Harbaugh still wants to put his best 11 players on the field at all times, on all plays, because as he said, “that play might be the play that makes the difference in the game.”
“I don’t think it really changes the way you think, because you already knew there was a risk there,” Harbaugh said. “It just kind of draws everybody’s attention to it.”
The Ravens have more versatility than just a few creative plays. Harbaugh said it starts with the offensive line, where both of Baltimore’s offensive guards and tackles are athletic enough to pull outside so the Ravens can run plays on the exterior.
“That’s not something that very many teams can say,” Harbaugh said.
New England carved an identity during its Super Bowl stretch of the early 2000s by turning several of its players into versatile weapons. Remember linebacker Mike Vrabel catching touchdown passes and wide receiver Troy Brown playing cornerback?
Now it may be Baltimore’s turn.
“The more guys that can carry the ball or that you can throw to or whatever obviously gives you more creative options that way,” Harbaugh said.