By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
9:24 PM EDT, September 22, 2013
Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss was in a candid, introspective mood Sunday following the most successful play of his NFL career.
Released during the final roster cutdown and then brought back when Pro Bowl kick returner Jacoby Jones got hurt, Doss delivered one of the biggest plays of the Ravens' 30-9 victory over the Houston Texans.
Doss celebrated his 24th birthday with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, the fifth-longest punt return in franchise history.
"It's been a long three years for me," said Doss, a 2011 fourth-round draft pick out of Indiana. "[I always have] high expectations for myself because I always had confidence in what I can do on the football field, it's been a rocky first couple of years. Just having that play in front of my home team fans, that was amazing. Hopefully, I'll just keep doing it."
Doss faked inside to his left before bursting outside to his right and eluding Texans punter Shane Lechler. He tight-roped the sideline closely enough that officials conducted an instant-play review to determine whether Doss' feet remained in bounds before affirming it was a touchdown.
"I thought I stepped out, honestly," Doss said. "I just kept running, though. Everybody was saying, 'Go, go, go.' The only thing I remember was Torrey Smith screaming at me. It was a good feeling. He came running down the sideline.
"A couple of their guys overplayed it, which made me force it back to the right. You kind of get a little hazy. You don't really know what's going on. You just react."
Doss' breakthrough return was a welcome development for the Ravens with Jones out four to six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
"It was well-blocked, we got the gunners blocked, which isn't easy," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Tandon made a couple guys miss, and then showed some real acceleration up the sideline. It's a momentum-changer for the special teams. Obviously, it was a big turning point in the game."
And perhaps for Doss' career, which included just seven receptions during his first two NFL seasons.
While Jones is out, this is Doss' opportunity to prove himself after being out of work for the first week of the regular season after being cut by the Ravens.
"Coming into this camp, the coaches kept telling me this was going to be a great year for me," Doss said. "Just [being released], it was kind of like a shock to myself. I knew something, one way or another, I was going to be on a team.
"I just didn't know where. Thankfully, the Ravens called me after the Denver game and asked me to come back. It's been a blessing. It was a business decision by them. I'm glad I'm back."
Doss tried out for the Green Bay Packers after being cut by the Ravens, but wasn't signed to a contract.
Now, Doss said he appreciates every practice and takes everything more seriously.
"Yes, time to go to work," Doss said. "Being young, I came out my junior year, just being young and not approaching it like it’s actually my job. It’s hard to realize that. I did a poor job the past two years.
"You know, just taking care of my body and just doing things off the field I shouldn’t have been doing, honestly. My mind wasn’t in it all the way, and I’m glad I had that opportunity to see what I needed to do to change it.”
Cody hurts knee
Backup nose tackle Terrence Cody sprained his left knee and didn't return.
Cody went down during the Texans' opening offensive drive and trainers immediately attended to him. He was helped off the field by trainers, but was able to limp into the locker room under his own power.
"It does not look to be a long-term sprain," Harbaugh said of Cody. "It could be this week, but more likely it will be a couple weeks."
Backup running back Shaun Draughn suffered a high ankle sprain and linebacker Albert McClellan has a minor hip injury.
Draughn told The Baltimore Sun that the injury initially doesn't seem that serious.
"The pain was moving around," Draughn said. "It don't feel too bad right now. I think I'll be back next week, I'll be good."
One week after misfiring twice on field goal attempts against the Cleveland Browns, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker regained his usual form by connecting on three field goals with no misses against the Texans.
Tucker converted field goals from 28, 45 and 43 yards.
"We've got a really good thing going altogether as a team," said Tucker, who hit 30 of 33 field goals last season as a rookie. "To be able to contribute the way I know I should, putting points on the board, is a much better feeling than last week. It's definitely good to bounce back."
Harbaugh said he wasn't concerned that Tucker would dwell on the rough game.
"Tucker's a rock-solid guy," Harbaugh said. "He doesn't let things bother him too much. I think he's really confident."
The Ravens were flagged 10 times for 87 yards with only two assessed after halftime.
In the first quarter, the Ravens were even hit with an illegal substitution penalty when they had 12 men on the field.
"That was a mistake on our part," Harbaugh said. "Another player thought he was replacing that guy and we got stuck with 12 on the field. If I had seen it soon enough, I would've called timeout."
Plus, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie was penalized twice for facemask infractions.
"Sometimes against a good front, that stuff comes up, but we don't need to do that," Harbaugh said. "Our offensive line is too good to have to resort to those technique issues. We talked about it at halftime. The guys did a good job of cleaning that up."
Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice missed his first game since his rookie season, ending a streak of 66 consecutive games as Bernard Pierce replaced him in the starting lineup. Rice had started the previous 43 games, the longest active starting streak in the NFL by a running back.
Rice is dealing with a strained left hip flexor and the team is upbeat about his chances to return next week from an injury that usually takes one to two weeks to recover from.
When asked if he thinks Rice will return next Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, Pierce replied: "Hopefully. If not, it's going to be another long game."
With defensive end Chris Canty out with a strained groin, veteran Marcus Spears started in his place and finished with three tackles, two for losses.
Spears also started the season-opener against the Denver Broncos when Arthur Jones was out with an irregular heartbeat.
"You make a couple of standout plays and people think it's a great game, but it's never as bad or as good as people think," Spears said. "I try to keep that mentality and do my job."
Cornerback Chykie Brown played despite a right knee injury that limited him in practice all week, saying he didn't have a setback. "I think I did good with my knee," he said. "It's getting better." ... The Ravens also scratched inside linebacker Arthur Brown (strained left pectoral), center Ryan Jensen (foot surgery), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (left foot sprain) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (right big toe). "It's not that bad," Arthur Brown said. "I don't need surgery. I don't think I'll even be out a month."
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