MINNEAPOLIS — Having gone backward during a three-and-out on their first drive at Minnesota, the Baltimore Ravens got the ball right back after the latest interception by their ball-hawking defense.
The next setback came two plays into the ensuing possession, proving to be a much bigger problem.
Mike Wallace, after catching a 9-yard pass on a crossing route near midfield, was leveled by a lowered shoulder from safety Andrew Sendejo that he never saw coming. The hit was delivered hard enough to knock Wallace’s helmet off and draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sendejo.
Wallace was lying on his back for a few minutes before slowly leaving the field on his own power. Taken to the locker room and placed in the concussion protocol, Wallace was soon declared out for the rest of the afternoon. The flag wiped out the lost fumble on the play, and the Ravens actually extended that drive for the first of three field goals by Justin Tucker. But the Vikings’ defense simply overwhelmed the injury-ravaged Ravens the rest of the afternoon in a 24-16 victory on Sunday for Minnesota .
Wallace leads the Ravens with 248 receiving yards through seven games.
“You guys know how much he can affect the game. He’s one of the best players on our team, and when you lose a guy like that it’s definitely going to have an effect on you,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I’d like to overcome that and move forward and win the ball game anyway, but we weren’t able to do it.”
With Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), Breshad Perriman (concussion) and Chris Matthews (thigh) already inactive for the game, and Wallace originally listed as questionable because of a back injury, the Ravens were left with only three healthy wide receivers: Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore and Griff Whalen, who signed with the team on Saturday. Not an ideal situation for an offense that entered the week with the third-fewest total yards in the league.
“It was tough,” said Moore, who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Flacco on the final play from scrimmage. His 23-yard reception earlier in the fourth quarter was the longest play of the game for the Ravens, who finished with 208 yards on 64 plays. Flacco is averaging 170 passing yards per game, with just five scores.
Back on the sideline in the second quarter, Wallace was animatedly trying to argue to coaches and staff that he could return to action. The Ravens might have been tempted in an earlier time, when head injury treatment was less prevalent and strict, but they didn’t budge.
“Mike’s a tough guy, and he was adamant about wanting to get back in the game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “But he’s got some kind of a concussion, and we’ll find out in the next few days how that shakes out.”
The Ravens (gulp!) must get ready to play again in four days. They host Miami on Thursday.
“We’ve been missing guys all season. I don’t even know the number of guys who are on the IR right now, but so goes the NFL and this game,” right tackle Austin Howard said. “It’s unfortunate, but we have to find a way to win, somehow, some way. We have to find a way to replace those guys we’ve lost and learn how to use the guys that we have and have success.”
The Ravens (3-4), who have 15 players on injured reserve, had to use running back Javorius Allen at wide receiver at times against the Vikings.
“That’s part of the game. Injuries, they’re going to come with it. We’ve just got to make more plays,” Allen said. “I’ve got full confidence in this team. We’ve just got to get a spark, and we’re going to break it.”
At least Wallace appeared to be all right, though concussions can be tricky to predict. He was unavailable to reporters per NFL rules.
“He’s a tough dude,” Moore said. “I love Mike, so I just tried to be out there and do the best I can for him, because I know how badly he would want to be out there.”