It wasn't long after Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco launched a high spiral Sunday that a strong crosswind started affecting the path of the football, forcing wide receiver Jacoby Jones to adjust.
Sprinting past New York Jets free safety Ed Reed and rookie cornerback Dee Milliner, Jones angled his route slightly to his left to account for the wind. Jones' quick thinking and speed allowed him to catch a 66-yard touchdown pass in stride during the third quarter of the Ravens' 19-3 victory Sunday over the Jets, a late score that effectively sealed the game.
"It was crazy," Jones said. "I came at the ball, and I looked up and it sailed, and I thought it would go past Ed's head. I looked and it started drifting to my left. That's when I cut over. The nose of the ball was sticking straight up like a punt. I just stuck my hand out. When it stuck to my hand, I was like, 'OK, I'm going to this pylon so I can dance.'"
It was the longest touchdown pass of the season for the Ravens.
It was also easily the biggest play of the season for Jones, who's had a quiet season after emerging last season as one of the most exciting players during the Ravens' championship run, including scoring two touchdowns in their Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Jones had a season-high four catches for 103 yards, his first 100-yard receiving game since joining the Ravens last year and just the second of his career.
From his sideline vantage point, Ravens coach John Harbaugh initially doubted Jones would be able to track down the pass due to swirling, unpredictable winds.
"It was probably the play of the game for us," Harbaugh said. "The ball got up there and got caught in the wind. It was being pushed that way. I thought once it got up in the air and the wind got it, I didn't think Jacoby was going to be able to get it.
"He shifted into another gear and he went and got that ball, just an amazing play. And for him to reach out and catch it and keep his balance, just a tremendous, athletic play."
Jones accelerated past Milliner, a first-round draft pick from Alabama who's struggled to contain deep passes. Then, he got behind a retreating Reed, the former Ravens defensive icon playing his second game with the Jets after being cut by the Houston Texans.
"They had the wind at their backs, so we knew they were going to throw deep," Reed said. "Jacoby made a play. He adjusted to the ball really well. I probably should have grabbed him and took the penalty, but he was the one that made the play."
Added Flacco: "He did a great job, I thought, of just staying on his path and tracking that ball well."
It was particularly meaningful for Jones to beat Reed, the 35-year-old nine-time Pro Bowl selection and 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
"To play against Ed and to be able to do that, that's one of the greatest safeties to play the game," Jones said. "And to get respect from him, it's a good feeling."
Jones had no thoughts of rubbing it in after he caught the touchdown.
"No, I was ready to dance," Jones said. "I was looking for the ref. I saw the two hands go up, time to boogie."
And Jones did so, breaking into one of his trademark dances in a nod to his Dancing With The Stars partner Karina Smirnoff. It was reminiscent of last season, when Jones made the Pro Bowl for the first time and frequently turned the end zone into a dance floor.
"I told Karina, 'If I get in the end zone, the first dance I do will be the quick step," Jones said, "as a tribute to her, an appreciation."
Jones nearly had a touchdown catch in the first half, too, but Reed collided with him in the end zone to break up the pass. No penalty was assessed.
"When he hit me, Ed came up to apologize," Jones said. "I know the type of player Ed is. He didn't mean to do it. Me and Ed go way back. That's my guy."
Jones entered Sunday with just 17 receptions for 160 yards and one touchdown and his longest pass reception was 31 yards.
Jones' season got off to a rough start when he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the Ravens' season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos when rookie safety Brynden Trawick accidentally crashed into him during a fair catch.
On Sunday, Jones generated a season-high 249 all-purpose yards. He returned five punts for 108 yards, including a season-long 37-yarder, and two kickoffs for 38 yards.
"It's been tough for him," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "To see him get going the way he did, especially on special teams, but also as a receiver, that's huge for us. When he's playing like that, he's able to create big plays for us, and it really helps us out a lot."
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