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Ravens' Maxx Williams shows improvisation, playmaking ability

BALTIMORE -- It seemed too good to be true in Thursday's preseason opener, when Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams caught a short pass on fourth-and-20 and had the opportunity to recreate his hurdling highlight from the Citrus Bowl.

About five yards shy of the first-down marker, Williams started to go airborne over cornerback Travis Manning until he decided to make an adjustment.

"I bailed on [the leap] early," Williams said. "I saw it was a bad angle, and I saw a guy coming from the side. So midway through the leap, I was like, 'Oh God.'"

Williams essentially glided past Manning and collided with Pierre Warren before lunging forward to convert the first down. That high-effort, 22-yard reception kept the comeback hopes alive with the Ravens trailing 27-23 with 36 seconds remaining.

Six plays later, third-string quarterback Bryn Renner scored the winning, one-yard run.

"That was unbelievable," tight end Crockett Gillmore said of Williams' clutch play.

The Ravens traded up in the second round for Williams because they wanted the draft's best playmaking tight end so badly. Williams, who recorded a first down or scored a touchdown on 77.7 percent of his catches (28 of 36) last season at Minnesota, represents a solid safety net if Dennis Pitta doesn't play this season after having hip surgeries in consecutive years.

So far, Williams has provided glimpses of what he could do in each of his two trips to M&T Bank Stadium. At last week's downtown camp practice, he caught the longest touchdown throw of the night. On Thursday night, he took a short pass and turned it into the biggest play of the game.

"That reminded me of that highlight play from college," coach John Harbaugh said. "When he got the ball, I was thinking, 'we’re going to need a play like that right now to keep this game alive.' And, he came up with it. It was good to see."

Williams insists he wasn't thinking about duplicating that leap-over-the-defender moment when he caught the pass four yards downfield and needed 16 more yards to get the first down. He was just focused on the first down.

"The only thing that was going through my mind was I knew it was fourth down, so I couldn’t run [out of bounds] and stop the clock," said Williams, who finished with two catches for 36 yards. "I knew I just had to run."