The narrow margin of the Ravens' 9-6 win against the Kansas City Chiefs might have been more comfortable if Deonte Thompson had not committed the biggest gaffe of his rookie season.
The kick returner opened the second half by returning a Ryan Succop kickoff 32 yards. But at the 29-yard line, former Ravens wide receiver Terrence Copper reached out and stripped the football from Thompson's right arm and former Ravens linebacker Edgar Jones pounced on the loose ball at the 29.
According to both Thompson and inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, Copper's play was the only hurdle that prevented Thompson from reaching the end zone and giving the team what would have been a 10-3 lead.
"I was scott free," Thompson recalled Wednesday. "I came through there and I saw the blocks. I was ready to pump the ball because I saw nobody in front of me, and he came off the block and grabbed me down by my arm and snatched it out at the last minute."
In a span of a few seconds, the Ravens sideline went from elation to disappointment.
"It goes from ball at the 50 or touchdown to a stripped fumble and a lost ball," Ayanbadejo said. "Our special teams unit, we feel something brewing, and we've just got to be patient and stick with it. Once you see one return, you're going to start seeing a bunch. But we've just got to get that first one. That first one is always the hardest one, and then after that, the success is contagious and it just leaks all over your special teams unit."
Thompson, who ranks sixth in the AFC with a 25.9-yard average on kick returns, echoed Ayanbadejo's sentiment. But he also emphasized that he can't afford to fumble any more returns.
"I was down," Thompson said. "I felt like I let my teammates down. Can't put the ball on the ground. I'm carrying that ball for 53 other guys and that includes the coaches. Can't do that. That's why you've got to finish every play all the way down to the whistle."