ARLINGTON, Texas -- After an evening spent dodging and sprinting past potential Dallas Cowboys tacklers, Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson wasn’t about to run and hide from what was blatantly obvious.
Having seemingly lost ground in the wide receiver competition in recent weeks, Thompson needed a performance like this in the worst way.
“I’m in a tough competition right now, so everything counts, and it was big for me personally,” Thompson said following the Ravens’ 37-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. “I can’t even describe it. Emotional. I’m just thankful. I’m thankful that those guys blocked it so well, and I can’t thank them enough.”
“It” was Thompson’s electric 108-yard kickoff return touchdown about midway through the first quarter, one of three productive returns for a player who has had an uneven training camp at a time when he has needed to flourish. The touchdown gave the Ravens a 14-7 lead that they’d never relinquish.
“It was awesome,” Thompson said of the return touchdown, which was spurred by key blocks from Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Jeromy Miles, among others. “The guys just blocked it perfect. We’ve been working hard all week. We did it to perfection. It opened up just how we practiced it every day. It was a left return, and it opened up like the Red Sea.”
Thompson also got the Ravens started with a 44-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter and a 30-yard burst on the opening kick of the second half on a tough kickoff into the corner. Both returns set up scoring drives. All told, Thompson had 188 total return yards.
“Deonte really stepped up on the kickoff returns and, obviously, we blocked very well, too,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “When he gets loose like that, you’re not going to catch him. He showed up big time. It was good to see.”
Earlier, Harbaugh called it a “statement” game for Thompson, a former undrafted free agent who has played sparingly the past two seasons. Thompson has wowed the coaches before in practice and in the preseason, but he has struggled to find consistency.
In his rookie season, he fumbled a kickoff against the Kansas City Chiefs and never seemingly regained the coaching staff’s trust. Last year, he suffered a foot injury in training camp and, when he got healthy, he did little in practice or games to suggest that he was ready for a bigger role. This offseason, he was arrested on marijuana possession though charges were ultimately dismissed.
With the Ravens deep at wide receiver, Thompson knew he needed a strong training camp to stick around for a third season with the team. He has done some good things in practice, but he also has had a couple uncontested drops on perfect deep passes from Joe Flacco.
“I think I’m having a pretty good camp,” he said. “I just had a couple of deep balls I didn’t bring in, and it kind of got to me. But that happens to the best of them. It should be good.”
Thompson didn’t have any catches last night, but his top competitors for the fifth and possibly sixth receiver role didn’t stand out either.
Kamar Aiken was held without a catch. He was open for a touchdown, but Tyrod Taylor sailed a ball over his head. Jeremy Butler had one catch for 10 yards, but Michael Campanaro, LaQuan Williams, Mike Willie and Jace Davis were all held without a reception.
Taliaferro shines, regrets fumble
For a second straight preseason game, Taliaferro posted a game-high in rushing. Working primarily in the second half, he had 59 yards on 16 carries and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
However, after the game, Taliaferro lamented a play that he did not make after he lost the ball.
On a third-and-16 play early in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor hit Taliaferro on a screen pass, and the rookie running back was on the way to picking up up the first down before Cowboys linebacker Cameron Lawrence jarred the ball loose.
Center Gino Gradkowski pounced on it, but the Ravens lost 4 yards on the recovery and didn’t get the first down.
“You have to take advantage of every opportunity, and fumbling is not the way to do that,” said Taliaferro, who has 130 rushing yards in two games.
None of the top competitors for the final one or two wide receiver spots made an impact with the offense as only Jeremy Butler (one catch for 10 yards) finished with a reception. … Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain, whom the Ravens traded to Dallas this offseason, finished with a game-high six tackles. … Strong-side linebacker Courtney Upshaw’s 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown was his first score since he returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida as a senior at Alabama. Asked about his lack of a celebration, Upshaw said: “I’m not the dancing type.”
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