Every Tuesday, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players, from that week's game. Today he looks at Jacoby Jones' NFL-record-tying 108-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Jacoby Jones had an itch and he wanted to scratch it.
With the Ravens leading, 17-13, in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys, Jones, who had replaced Deonte Thompson as the team's primary kickoff returner, stood with his heels barely inside the back of the end zone. Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey had boomed his three previous kickoffs for touchbacks, and Jones was starting to get impatient. He caught this kickoff 8 yards deep in the end zone and started running.
With running back Anthony Allen leading the way, Jones first met resistance at Baltimore's 10-yard line. Allen walled off his defender on the right hashmark and Jones cut decisively inside Allen's lead block while another desperate defender sprawled out in an unsuccessful attempt to trip up Jones. By then, a crease had opened up between two walls of bodies and Jones sprinted through it. He was gone by the time he hit his own 20-yard line.
"I saw it and I heard the crowd, that's when I knew I was free, and I just opened it up, and I just ran as fast as possible," Jones said.
Bailey tried, but had no chance of catching the speedy wideout.
The 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown tied an NFL record.
The return spanned 10 seconds, but the dirty work was a blur. The Ravens set up a right return, with center Gino Gradkowski and fullback Vonta Leach cleaning out the initial Cowboys defender with a two-man wedge. Allen led Jones from left to right, and the crease opened up behind safety Sean Considine and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who had double-teamed another defender. Allen took out the last unblocked defender on the right edge.
"Honestly, in practice, we had one that hit the same way, so I already had a vision," Jones said. "So, when I caught it, I found Anthony Allen, and he said, 'Follow me.' He was my eyes. He led me to daylight. That thing [opened up] like the Red Sea."
After doing a jig in the end zone, Jones returned to the Baltimore sideline. He "threw up a little bit," caught his breath and was ready to run again. He would later total 51 yards on two more returns.
The Ravens have said for a few weeks that they felt like they were close to breaking a long return. But as coach John Harbaugh admitted Monday, "it doesn't mean much until you break one."
"We had another one there that was about gone, too, the one up the right sideline there," the former special teams coordinator said. "[Jacoby has] great acceleration and he's really strong. He has a great knack for hitting the hole -- the hole doesn't stay open for long. He's got a feel for that, so I think it says that we're a threat in the return game. We felt like we needed to be and it's going to have to be something that is important this year as we go forward."