They were only two plays and yet, they were enough to show the kind of effect receiver Joseph Morgan was expected to have this season in the New Orleans Saints offense, and the kind of influence he still will have an opportunity to wield in the final five regular-season games for New Orleans (4-7).
On the second play from scrimmage in the Saints' 34-27 loss to Baltimore on Monday night, Morgan took a handoff around the left end, avoided a tackler, tight-roped the sideline and sprinted 67 yards to the Ravens' 2-yard line for New Orleans' longest run of the season.
That play didn't lead to a score in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but his next one did – a 62-yard pass from Drew Brees on the Saints' third possession, to the Baltimore 9-yard line, for New Orleans' longest pass reception of the season. That catch led to Drew Brees' 10-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.
That run and catch were the only two touches Morgan had in the game, but may have gone a long way toward salvaging his season and his role as the Saints prepare to play Pittsburgh (7-4) at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Perhaps Morgan's chance to reintroduce himself to Saints fans wouldn't have happened if rookie receiver Brandin Cooks hadn't been injured against Cincinnati, placed on injured reserve and lost for the season. But in two plays, Morgan reminded all of the top-end speed he showed in 2012, when he caught 10 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns.
And he showed some of the talent that might have benefited the Saints this season had he not been recovering from injury (torn ACL in training camp in 2013, which forced him to miss the regular season), unable to claim playing time (inactive five times this year) and placed on the reserve/suspended list for two games.
"Monday was just me taking advantage of the opportunities I was given," Morgan said. "They called up plays that we had gone over through the week and I just capitalized off of great opportunities. It wasn't like I did anything spectacular; there were guys in front of me that did their job and everything was clicking, so the play worked.
"It shows that you're capable of doing things. But at the same time, you stick to what the coaches call, the game plan, you trust it. Whatever they call I'll be ready and I'll do my part and take advantage of my opportunities."
Morgan's opportunities could escalate with Cooks lost for the season. The rookie had 53 catches for 550 yards and three touchdowns, and seven carries for 73 yards and a touchdown, in 10 games.
Cooks' increased production, the presence of veteran receiver Robert Meachem and his two-game suspension helped keep Morgan without a reception until the 10th game of the season, a 7-yard catch against Cincinnati.
But early against the Ravens, he was a major contributor. His run made him the Saints' leading rusher in the game by 40 yards, and only Kenny Stills (98) and Marques Colston (82) had more than his 62 receiving yards among Saints.
"I think for him it's just been a matter of opportunity," Brees said. "And now that he has gotten the opportunity I think he's really found a nice role that could be ever increasing as we go along here."
Official team photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Baltimore Ravens game on Monday, November 24, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)