The Ravens trailed early and their offense was once again struggling to move the ball on Monday Night Football.
So, Baltimore broke out the gadget plays to help beat the Houston Texans.
The Ravens scored both of their touchdowns after converting tricky fourth-down plays. The rest of the points came from three Justin Tucker field goals.
The first creative play was a perfect pass from punter Sam Koch and the second was a fourth-and-1 fake inside handoff and outside pitch to running back Alex Collins.
The two plays went for a combined 51 yards. By the end of the first half, they had 130 yards on all other offensive plays. Baltimore’s offense finished with 294 total yards and was 3-of-14 on third down.
“You always have [trick plays] in the game plan, things like that,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It’s just kind of the flow of the game and the way things went.”
Houston’s weakness was its pass defense, which had allowed the 28th-most yards in the league. The Ravens tried to dial up a few deep shots, but Flacco overthrew a couple and Mike Wallace had one go through his hands.
Running back Alex Collins averaged about 2 yards per carry on everything other than his one long run. The offense again relied on short passes and check downs to grind out yards.
When the Ravens needed their first offensive boost, they turned to their ace in the hole at quarterback – their punter.
Just two games ago, in Tennessee, Koch connected with wide receiver Chris Moore on a well-timed 10-yard comeback route to move the chains. The play completely caught the Titans by surprise. It’s rare to see the same trick play used twice in a season, let alone twice in three games. But there was Koch, dropping back on a very similar play.
This time, Moore faked and then went deep. Koch lobbed the pass up, and Moore fought off the defender to make a spectacular diving catch for a 22-yard gain. The Ravens scored on a 10-yard Javorius Allen run two plays later.
“I’m always like a baseball player. I need to keep my arm warm,” Koch said. “I kind of threw a floater out there to a spot where I thought he could get to it, and it ended up working out.”
Koch is now 4-of-4 in his career passing attempts for a combined 48 yards. He has a quarterback rating of 118.75.
“He’s definitely leading the quarterback ratings in the league, isn’t he?” Harbaugh said. “Sam is a talented guy. I watch him throw every day. He can throw the ball.”
As Harbaugh pointed out, Koch’s throw was great considering he stood poised amidst a pass rush to throw a good ball. But Moore’s escape from a vice grip on the sidelines was perhaps even better.
“That’s just something that came up; he held me,” Moore said. “Just had to go out there and make a play. No design with that.”
The Ravens’ second trick play is a little more common, but it hasn’t been used much by Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and was broken out at just the right time.
Baltimore was facing a fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 37-yard line when Flacco faked a handoff to Allen, who lined up as the fullback, and instead flipped it outside to Collins, who had already gained the edge. He was wide open and easily picked up the first down before ripping off a 29-yard gain. Collins ran up the middle for an 8-yard score on the next snap.
“It was just a brilliant call, I think, by Marty Mornhinweg,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
The third offensive wrinkle came when the Ravens needed one more first down to seal the game. With the Texans packing the line of scrimmage, Flacco faked the handoff and bootlegged to the left for the quarterback keeper run.
Once again, it totally faked out the Texans and Flacco’s long legs sprinted down the field for 25 yards, his longest run since 2011. After that one, Harbaugh gave Mornhinweg a shove and smile on the sideline.
“He was trying to get [to the end zone], too,” Wallace said of Flacco’s run. “He surprised me. Maybe if he picked up his feet a little more, he might have scored.”
Check out the best photos from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens host the Texans on Monday Night Football.