They watched the play together, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and safety Rodney McLeod, and that wasn't easy for McLeod, who prides himself on being a tough, hard-hitting, aggressive NFL safety.
“I looked at it and I definitely could have been more aggressive,” McLeod said. “I feel like that’s what this team expects of me.”
McLeod came under tremendous scrutiny for his play on the Ravens’ final touchdown in their 27-26 win over the Eagles Sunday, a 16-yard run by Kenneth Dixon that gave the Ravens a 10-point lead with 11 minutes left.
McLeod appeared to simply backpedal all the way into the end zone without trying to make a play on Dixon.
It looked like he was avoiding contact.
“We had a conversation about it, looked at the film, self-evaluate myself,” McLeod said at his locker on Tuesday. “Certain situations I may be thinking too much, just trying to do what I think is best for the defense.
“I’m the last line of defense most of the time so, you know, just trying to do what I can to get guys on the ground.
“We had a conversation about it and that’s why I appreciate Jim. He’s a great coach. I definitely take coaching well, I’m a coachable guy.”
It wasn’t the first time McLeod’s effort has come into question late this season. It happened on a touchdown in the Bengals loss two weeks ago as well.
Schwartz didn’t defend McLeod’s effort on that Dixon touchdown but he did shed some light on what happened in his eyes.
“Rodney was doing the wrong thing for the right reason,” Schwartz said. “And I say this: He's trying not to allow a big play right there. As a result, we end up giving up big plays. I told him I would rather you shoot your gun. I would rather you take that shot then shoot at chickens and give ground and give ground and hope that you can buy time for other people to make the play.
“There are times that you have to do that. It's tough being a middle-of-the-field defender and a run breaks. There's a big difference between being a safety and, I like to tell those guys, being a ‘risky.’ It's a different thing. But you don't want a safety that's ready, fire, aim. And you don't want a safety that's ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, never pull the trigger.
“That's where I told him my opinion was that's where he's gotten to these last couple games. I want him to get back to early in the season where that 23 was a blur everywhere on the field. And you don't want to be risky and you don't want to take chances sometimes when you are the post player, but you've got to pull the trigger when it comes.
“I have enough confidence in him to trust his judgment to pull the trigger. Rodney knows big plays have affected us. He's trying not to allow a big play. Sometimes that's the wrong approach to take. And hopefully we can get him back to being the blur on the field that he was first half of the season.”
McLeod, who was selected a second Pro Bowl alternate Tuesday evening, was off to a great start this year.
In the Eagles’ first six games, he averaged 9.2 tackles per game, had three interceptions plus a sack and forced fumble. In the last eight, he’s averaged 6.9 tackles with no interceptios or other impact plays.
McLeod said he doesn’t think he’s been awful the second half of the season. It’s just that when he’s had a bad play, it’s been glaring.
“I think it hasn’t been a great amount of plays,” he said. “I think it’s just a couple plays. … I think I’m still the same player. Just a few plays that you see on film maybe. I know what type of player I need to be for this team.”
As for the Dixon touchdown, McLeod really had no excuses. Just an explanation.
“They ran a flip play to try to slow us down, I recognize it and saw it and just trying to get him on the ground, save us and give us another opportunity to line up and play another snap,” he said.
“And on that I just lost aware of the field, and looking at it on film and looking at the replay, I definitely would have taken a shot and been more aggressive on that play.
“You’ve just got to know when you can take shots and when you can’t. There’s certain times where you can. I think that flip play was one of those times where I probably need to be more overly aggressive when you’re at that point. You’re close to the end zone, what do you have to lose? And just trust your teammates will rally to the ball.
“I practice it a lot, man, take pride in it, and this team expects me to be more aggressive and that’s what I’m going to do.”
McLeod knows that fans have been on him since the Ravens' game, and he said he prides himself on being a physical player and never shying away from contact. The criticism hurts.
“Yeah, I mean, it definitely does,” he said. “But I think it’s just a few plays where looking at it, I’m like, ‘OK, it’s easily fixed.’
“I don’t think it’s something that’s been showing all year. I’m not going to change how I play. Just certain times go ahead and pull that trigger.”