Carroll County Times

Ravens Notebook: Special touchdown for Doss

BALTIMORE - Tandon Doss doesn't remember his celebratory flip into the end zone.
He remembers catching the punt, remembers reading the Texans' punt coverage team and eluding two Houston defenders to get to open space down the right sideline, and he remembers the celebration that followed the 82-yard punt return that pushed the Ravens' lead to 17-6 late in the second quarter.
But Doss' memory of most of the return, as he put it, is hazy.
"I don't even remember crossing the goal-line," Doss said, smiling. "It felt great."
Every touchdown in the NFL is special. But for Doss, the touchdown return Sunday carried extra meaning.
Doss, a fourth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011, began the summer as a contender for Baltimore's No. 2 wide receiver job, but struggles during training camp and the preseason combined with the emergence of young receivers Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette led to Doss being released as Baltimore trimmed its roster to 53 players.
But Doss was re-signed - primarily to help on special teams - after Jacoby Jones got hurt during the Ravens' season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos.
And while he still hopes to eventually make an impact on offense with Baltimore as well, Doss is helping to offset the loss of Jones on punt returns.
He had two long returns against the Cleveland Browns last week and then the touchdown against the Texans Sunday, one made more special for him because Sunday was his 24th birthday.
"It's been a long three years for me," Doss said. "You know, I came in, like I always say, [with] 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. [But] just having that play in front of my home team fans, that was amazing. Hopefully, I'll just keep doing it."
STANDING OUT: Inside linebacker Daryl Smith was one of the stars of training camp and the preseason for the Ravens, and Smith was a difference-maker on Sunday.
On the same day that Baltimore inducted Ray Lewis into its Ring of Honor, Smith, the man saddled with the task of replacing Lewis at Mike linebacker, led the Ravens with 10 tackles and had an interception return for a touchdown late in the second quarter to give Baltimore a 10-6 lead.
On the play, Smith stepped in front of Texans tight end Owen Daniels to pick off the pass from Matt Schaub before returning the ball 37 yards for a touchdown down the right sideline.
"It was something we've seen on film throughout the week," said Smith, who signed with the Ravens in June after nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. "We'd been getting pressure on him, but he was getting rid of the ball pretty quick. I knew I had a chance to jump on it. We got pressure on the play, and I jumped the route, and I was able to take it for a touchdown."
Through three games, Smith has a team-high 25 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five pass deflections and the interception.
He had just four tackles against the Broncos, but he has 21 tackles the last two games.
"Daryl, he's one of those guys," Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "If he keeps playing the way he's playing, we're going back to the Super Bowl. He is a Pro Bowl-type guy. He's making plays like no other."
Strong safety James Ihedigbo was consistently around the ball for Baltimore as well Sunday.
He had nine tackles, two tackles for a loss and two pass deflections.
GROUNDED: The Ravens were struggling to run the ball even before Ray Rice got hurt last week. And without Rice, Baltimore continued to have issues running the ball Sunday against the Texans.
Bernard Pierce started in place of Rice. And aside from a 25-yard run during the second half, Pierce picked up just 40 yards on 23 carries.
As a team, the Ravens had just 75 yards on 31 rushing attempts.
"It was tough," Baltimore right guard Marshal Yanda said. "They're tough. They've got a tough run defense. [But], like I said, we did what we had to do to win the game."
STREAK SNAPPED: Prior to Sunday, Rice had played in 66 straight games dating to 2008.
He appeared to be walking fine on the sideline Sunday, but it's possible that the strained hip flexor he suffered against Cleveland could sideline him next week as well.
GETTING TO THE QB: Houston's offensive line neutralized Baltimore's pass rush to a degree, at least compared to how the Cleveland Browns' offensive line fared last week, but the Ravens still finished with three sacks and seven quarterback hits.
Baltimore has recorded three sacks or more in each of its first three games.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones each had sacks Sunday.
Suggs has a sack in each of the Ravens' first three games.
INJURIES: Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody went down with what originally looked like a serious leg injury during the first quarter Sunday, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said after the game that Cody has just a sprained knee and could be back within a couple weeks.
However, running back Shaun Draughn, who is of greater importance with Rice out, sustained a high ankle sprain and Harbaugh said he didn't immediately know the severity of the injury.
Backup inside linebacker Albert McClellan injured his hip, but his injury is considered minor.
BACK ON TRACK: After missing two field goals against the Browns, Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker made all three of his field goal attempts Sunday.
Harbaugh said that kicking consultant came over to him after the game and joked, "We got our kicker back."
"[But] we had our kicker back on Wednesday," Harbaugh said. "He came out on Wednesday and did a great job. Tucker's a rock-solid guy. He doesn't let things bother him too much. I think he's really confident."