Wal­lace lets his speed do the talk­ing

Ex-Steel­ers wide re­ceiver says tak­ing con­trol of di­vi­sion out­weighs re­venge

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

It would have been easy for Mike Wal­lace to gloat about his 95-yard catch-and-run touch­down that pro­pelled the Ravens to a 21-14 win against the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers on Sun­day at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

After all, Pitts­burgh had taken Wal­lace in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft, but coach Mike Tom­lin con­sid­ered him a “one-trick pony” who couldn’t run routes. He left in free agency after the 2012 sea­son.

But the wide re­ceiver said the only thing that mat­tered was help­ing the Ravens end a four-game los­ing streak and as­sume con­trol in the AFC North.

“It felt re­ally good, just to get back in the win col­umn, and it was a lit­tle bit sweeter be­cause it was against my old team, but I haven’t been there for a while now,” Wal­lace said in what was the clos­est he came to rub­bing salt into the Steel­ers’ wounds. “It was good, great to see peo­ple, but just to say, ‘I re­ally want to beat my old team,’ that’s out the win­dow. I just re­ally want to win be­cause we need to win to get to the lead in the di­vi­sion. That was the big­gest thing and the only thing that mat­tered, was try to get the lead and con­trol our own des­tiny in this di­vi­sion.”

Wal­lace had a huge hand in Sun­day’s out­come, pri­mar­ily with his sec­ond catch of the game.

With the Ravens backed up to their 5-yard line and fac­ing sec­ond down-and-9, Wal­lace ran a slant from the left side of the for­ma­tion. Quar­ter­back Joe Flacco hit Wal­lace in stride at the 15.

Rookie cor­ner­back Ar­tie Burns, who had ended the pre­vi­ous drive by in­ter­cept­ing a woe­ful pass Flacco in­tended for tight end Den­nis Pitta, dove at Wal­lace’s legs, but came up with air. Wal­lace then used his right arm to stiff-arm free safety Mike Mitchell at the 22 and run down the left side­line to the end zone.

The 95-yard score is the long­est of­fen­sive play in the fran­chise’s reg­u­lar-sea­son his­tory, pass­ing a 92-yard re­cep­tion from Eric Zeier to Der­rick Alexan­der on Dec. 7, 1997, against the Seat­tle Sea­hawks. Wal­lace has 12 ca­reer touch­down catches of 50 yards or more, the third-high­est to­tal in the NFL since he was drafted.

Wal­lace said he was sur­prised the Steel­ers chose to have Burns press him in man-on­man cov­er­age.

“It’s dis­re­spect­ful,” Wal­lace said. “I feel like if you press me, you’re go­ing to lose 90 per­cent of the time, maybe 95. I got the slant, [and] when I looked up and [saw] the cov­er­age, I was like, ‘If I catch this, I have a chance be­cause they have no­body in the mid­dle of the field.’ So I was like, ‘If I catch The Ravens’ Mike Wal­lace beats Steel­ers safety Mike Mitchell in the first quar­ter for a 95-yard touch­down re­cep­tion, the long­est reg­u­lar-sea­son of­fen­sive play in fran­chise his­tory. “I just re­ally want to win be­cause we need to win to get to the lead in the di­vi­sion,” Wal­lace said later. this and beat the cor­ner, it would be one-on-one with the safety,’ and that’s ex­actly what hap­pened. I just had to pick a way to go, if I was go­ing to go in­side or out­side. I chose out­side.”

Burns fin­ished with four tack­les (one for loss) and two pass breakups in his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive start, but the first-round pick blamed him­self for the play. “We were sin­gle-high, man-up,” he said. “We played a lot of man this game. That’s one of the plays I gave up.”

Mitchell, who had one tackle, took a sim­i­lar ap­proach. “It was a slant where I’ve got to cover him, and I have to tackle him,” he said. “It was a missed tackle, and he got out.”

Coach John Har­baugh said Wal­lace’s big-play po­ten­tial has been a wel­come re­lief for an of­fense that had lacked a deep threat.

“The fact that we came off the 5-yard line and scored a touch­down — we haven’t seen this in the his­tory of the Ravens,” Har­baugh pointed out. “We need more of that. We have the speed to do it. We have guys that can do it. I think we just have to keep find­ing those plays and see that hap­pen.”

But after the touch­down, there was a stretch when Wal­lace was be­ing eval­u­ated by the med­i­cal staff. Wal­lace, who fin­ished with four re­cep­tions for 124 yards and leads the Ravens in yards with 614 and touch­down catches with four, ad­mit­ted that he had not eaten much be­fore the game and the lack of en­ergy caught up to him.

“Hon­estly, I think ev­ery time I ever madea big play, I al­ways use so much emo­tion that I get a lit­tle light-headed, but I al­ways come right back for the next se­ries and be fine, but to­day, it just set in on me a lit­tle bit,” he said. “Just had to calm down, got a ba­nana, a lit­tle wa­ter, and I was ready to go. I was just overly ex­cited. I had to calm down, and once that hap­pened, I was ready to go.”

Flacco teased Wal­lace for tak­ing a spell. (“You knowhe cel­e­brates for15 min­utes after he scores a touch­down,” he told the me­dia. “I’m pretty sure that had some­thing to do with it.”) But Flacco praised Wal­lace for set­ting the tone for the team with his touch­down.

“He did a great job of get­ting his arm on the safety and throw­ing his steps off a lit­tle bit, then out run­ning him to the end zone,” Flacco said. “I love those. They’re as easy as pos­si­ble for me.”

LLOYD FOX/BALTIMORE SUN

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