Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox
January 12, 2013
It is possible to win a football game when you allow two special-teams touchdowns.
Trindon Holliday did something Saturday night that no player had ever done in history of the NFL. And by improbably overcoming it, the Ravens might have done something that no other NFL team will do for a long, long time. Holliday, whom the Denver Broncos signed after the Houston Texans cut him during the season, became the first player in playoff history to score a touchdown on a punt return and a kickoff return in the same game. And somehow, despite giving away those 14 points on special teams, the Ravens won in double overtime, 38-35, to advance to their second straight AFC championship game.
In a one-for-the-ages playoff game chalk-full of twists and turns, the biggest surprise was the breakdown of a Baltimore special teams unit that had been one of the league's best during the regular season. We know about Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones and his three touchdown returns. But the coverage teams had been brilliant for most of the season, not allowing a return touchdown all year. They ranked seventh in the NFL in average yards per punt return and 13th in average yards per kickoff return. And after a few small slip-ups down the stretch, the Ravens didn't allow a single return yard in the wild-card win over the Indianapolis Colts. But those stout units were shredded down the seams in Saturday night's victory.
After Baltimore's first drive of the game, Sam Koch boomed a high punt to Holliday, who was not touched as he returned it 90 yards for the game's first touchdown. On that play, gunners Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown got pushed to the outside and the Ravens gave Holliday a wide lane to sprint through.
On the first kickoff of the second half, Holliday ran another one back. Broncos running back Jacob Hester knocked safety Sean Considine into linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo at the point of attack, and Holliday was off to the races again. His 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Broncos a 28-21 lead.
Who knows when the next team will allow two return touchdowns in a playoff game, but chances are they won't escape with a win like the Ravens did Saturday. There might be something special happening with this team, but there was nothing special about how the Ravens performed in the third phase in this one. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg will get a week to sew his coverage teams back together. It is going to be a challenge, but the good news is that he has a talented, eager group of guys to work with.