A fellow reporter jokingly asked me after the Ravens' win over the Broncos yesterday whether offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would be receiving his second consecutive game ball after his play-calling on Baltimore's first possession of the game.
Yeah, I don't think so.
With the Ravens looking at a fourth-and-goal from the Denver one-yard line early in the first quarter, Cameron called for a play action pass which featured Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as Joe Flacco's primary receiving target.
Ngata was covered in the end zone and Flacco was brought down for a sack, turning the ball over on downs. To make matters worse, Ngata collided with Broncos safety Darcel McBath and was slow to get up with an apparent left leg injury.
"It was a double whammy there," head coach John Harbaugh said after the game. "We didn't get it in, and then we've got Haloti with a potential injury."
Double whammy indeed.
Ngata ended up being OK, as he returned to the field a few plays into the Broncos' ensuing offensive possession, but it was a scary moment for the Ravens.
Cameron has used both Ngata and nose tackle Terrence Cody on offense at times this year in goal line situations (Cody's offensive appearance came in the preseason). Those two bring a lot of added bulk up front, and Ngata, who has great hands for a big guy, can serve as a bit of a rushing or receiving weapon as well. But any time you put players in situations where they aren't completely comfortable, there's an added injury risk.
Harbaugh explained the decision to use Ngata along the goal line in his postgame press conference.
"You take a chance sometimes when you put those guys out there, but then again, you want to put guys in situations to help you make plays," Harbaugh said. "To me, that's what football players do. People can say, 'Why is he out there on offense?' or, 'Why is he out there playing on special teams?' Because you're trying to win those plays. You try to put your guys in position, within reason, to do that. Fortunately, [Ngata] was OK."
Personally, I don't have nearly as much of an issue with using Ngata on the goal line as I do with that particular play call on fourth-and-goal. You've got three quality running backs, an exceptional red zone wide receiver in Anquan Boldin, and a big, tall quarterback who had just picked up four yards on a quarterback sneak three plays earlier.
Passing up all those options to run a play action pass to a defensive tackle doesn't make much sense to me.
Use Ngata's 6-4 350 pound frame as an extra fullback, or even hand him the ball once in a while if you truly feel like he's the best guy to get you a yard or two. But I'm not a fan of having the Pro Bowl D-tackle running routes and serving as the No. 1 option on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line.