Tyrod Taylor was so excited to get extensive regular-season action that even getting hit felt good.
The Ravens' backup quarterback hardly sees the field once the regular season begins considering Joe Flacco has started every game of his NFL career for the past five years.
Taylor got his first extensive regular-season action Sunday in Cincinnati. He took on the Ravens' third series of the first quarter, and played from then on.
While Taylor and the Ravens lost, 23-17, partly due to an interception return for a touchdown with about six minutes remaining, Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased with Taylor's performance.
And it was certainly exciting to watch with his scrambling skills on full display.
"It definitely was fun to get hit around a couple times," Taylor said. "It's been a while since I've been actually hit, so it felt good to go out there and get actual game-time reps."
Taylor finished 15-of-25 for 149 yards passing and the one interception. He ran nine times for 65 yards, including a 1-yard scamper for his first career touchdown that gave the Ravens a 14-13, fourth-quarter lead.
"I thought he did a great job as far as working the offense his way, applying his talents and abilities to it," Harbaugh said.
"He's a quarterback first. He applies all of the things that he brings to the table. He can throw it, he can run it. I thought he managed [the game] well, he made some good checks in there."
After the first-team Ravens offense had two series without points, Taylor took over under center. Baltimore wanted to protect Flacco heading into the playoffs.
The dynamically athletic Taylor put a charge in the offense immediately, and the unit scored a touchdown on its first drive. A 28-yard scramble by Taylor set up the score.
It was a classic Taylor play. He rolled out to his left and got enough for a first down. But Taylor was so quick that he was able to turn the corner, so he stayed in bounds, jumped over one arm tackle and surged forward.
Backup running back Anthony Allen rumbled for 20 yards to get to the 2-yard line, then plunged in from there to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead.
"We just had to go out there and be relaxed," said Taylor, who found out he would be going in early just before the game's start. "I'm fortunate to go against a great defense every day in practice, so I think that gets me ready for the game."
Taylor could have done more damage early on had he had better starting field position. All four of the Ravens' second-quarter drives started inside the 20-yard line, and two were on the 8- and 5-yard lines.
Taylor said the offense wasn't able to "open up" as much as it would have liked because of the field position.
"I felt bad he was backed up so much," Harbaugh said. "That makes it a little bit tougher. But when he had a little breathing space, he did a tremendous job and he made plays for us."
Taylor managed the game well despite facing Cincinnati's sixth-ranked defense, which entered the game with the second-most sacks in the NFL. Taylor said the Bengals made some adjustments specifically for him to counteract the zone-option reads he was making.
Playing behind a second-string offensive line, Taylor was sacked three times. But he also eluded intense pressure on several occasions, earning himself the nickname of "Houdini" by the CBS broadcasters.
A 15-yard pass to tight end Ed Dickson, then a scramble of 15 yards by Taylor put the Ravens on the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter. Taylor easily ran to the pylon for a 1-yard touchdown two plays later to retake the lead.
But Taylor also made some mistakes, and didn't make a lot of plays with his arm.
He threw into the arms of Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who had created separation from right tackle Michael Oher. Dunlap leaped to tip the ball, then caught it himself and eluded Taylor on the way to the end zone for a 14-yard score with 6:06 left.
Taylor also missed Jacoby Jones for a possible touchdown in the fourth quarter when his deep pass was a bit wide and led the receiver out of bounds. Taylor averaged six yards per completion and his longest pass went for 23 yards to wide receiver David Reed.
"Personally, I think I did some stuff that I can work on. But there's also some good things that I was able to showcase there too," Taylor said.
"It's just [a mentality of] don't look back. Continue to keep getting better. That's what I tried to do today."