The Ravens were already without superstar Lamar Jackson. When backup Tyler Huntley went out with a concussion late in the third quarter, it was all hands on deck in a howling December game in Pittsburgh.
How could the Ravens win this one?
In stepped Anthony Brown, an undrafted rookie from Oregon who had yet to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game. And to top it off, his first snap would be from his own 1-yard line.
Brown stepped in and cooly completed a pass, with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt bearing down, on that first play. From then on, he steered the Ravens offense down the stretch, helping it muster two clock-eating drives that delivered a 16-14 December win to Baltimore.
There have been numerous improbable winners in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, including some backup quarterbacks from time to time. Add Brown to the annals of history.
"When you might least expect it, there's your opportunity, and he stepped into it heroically," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
The play from the 1-yard line was just a 3-yard completion to Demarcus Robinson. But that play alone said something about how Brown was going to handle the pressure of Pittsburgh.
"That's kind of how he is. His personality is that. He's kind of calm, cool and collected," Harbaugh said. "[He's] very much a student of the game; [he] works very hard at it in terms of preparing himself."
The Ravens ended up punting on Brown's first series, as he had a misconnection with Robinson on second down, then was sacked on third down. After the Ravens blocked a Steelers field goal on the ensuring drive, Baltimore had a chance to make it a two-score game.
Brown helped direct a 13-play, 57-yard drive that gobbled up seven minutes and 55 seconds, a drive that Harbaugh said will go down in Ravens-Steelers lore. While J.K. Dobbins and the ground game did much of the leg work, Brown completed back-to-back passes, including a third-and-4 conversion to Mark Andrews, to get past midfield.
"It was super impressive just the way he commanded the huddle, the way that he brought us all together and all that," Andrews said. "Acting like he had been there before, and [I] just have a lot of respect and love for the way he came in and handled it."
Brown finished 3-fo-5 for 16 yards, but those plays were each critical. He credited his coaches for getting him prepared to play, even though his usual weekly duties are running the scout team in practice. For Brown, it's just the latest example of executing a plan. That's why he signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent.
"It was unbelievable; they said they had a plan for me, and low and behold, here we are in Pittsburgh, and we got it done," Brown said.
"I've been hearing it all my life from my father, 'Stay ready so you don't have to get ready.' This was just a testament to that. Then on top of it – like I said – just following the plan, following the process and making sure I was ready for whenever this moment came."
Harbaugh saw Huntley after the game and said he was reciting the months of the year backwards. Huntley won't be automatically ruled out for the Ravens' next game Saturday in Cleveland.
"He seems good to me," Harbaugh said. "So, we'll see how it goes. You just have to trust the docs on that, and they'll do a good job with it. Whatever it is, it is
"If Tyler can go, he'll be there, and Anthony will be backing him up. If he can't go, Anthony will be there playing, and Brett [Hundley] will be backing him up. So, we'll go with what we have. I promise you; everybody in that locker room trusts everybody that we have."