Tale of the Tape on Emmanuel Sanders' kickoff return vs. Ravens
Each week, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players and coaches, from that week's game. Today, he looks at Emmanuel Sanders' key late kickoff return.
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The Ravens trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout most of Sunday's game at Heinz Field, but finally, with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, they tied their rivals with a methodical 16-play, 73-yard drive that took about eight minutes off the clock. When tight end Dallas Clark caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco, the Heinz Field crowd hushed and put their yellow towels back in their pockets.
On the ensuing kickoff, though, Emmanuel Sanders would re-engage the crowd and give the Steelers good starting position on a spectacular return that almost went for a touchdown down the right sideline.
Sanders was never supposed to get a chance to return a kickoff, though. Kicker Justin Tucker was told to boom the ball out the back of the end zone, but he did not find firm footing when he planted to kick.
"On that surface, especially at that point in the game where there had been a lot of play on it, [and] there had been a lot of play on it the night before, you can't necessarily trust your plant as much," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said of the grass surface at Heinz Field. "And that particular plant didn't sink like he had hoped and the ball didn't come out like he had hoped or like anybody had hoped for that matter. But that's just the nature of football. You're not always going to have pristine conditions."
Tucker's line-drive kickoff bounced at the Pittsburgh 5-yard line and again in the end zone before Sanders turned his back to the play and caught the ball 7 yards deep in the end zone. Even though the Ravens were hoping for a touchback, they appeared to be in good position as Sanders surprisingly ran the ball out.