CLEVELAND — As he crossed the goal line to score his first NFL touchdown, Ravens rookie punt returner Kaelin Clay had the football tucked safely under his arm, a group of would-be Cleveland Browns tacklers in his wake.
Before Monday night, Clay was probably best known for his gaffe last year in his final college season at Utah. Playing against Oregon, Clay had gotten behind the Ducks defense for what should have been a 78-yard touchdown catch. However, about a yard before he got into the end zone, Clay dropped the ball. Oregon defender Joe Walker picked it up and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
Clay has said repeatedly that he's learned his lesson and it showed Monday night when he made the biggest play of his young career. Playing in his second game with the Ravens, Clay returned Andy Lee's first-quarter punt for an 82-yard touchdown to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Clay, whom the Ravens signed off the Detroit Lions' practice squad on Nov. 17, fielded Lee's booming 61-yard punt at his own 18, made one tackler miss and then sprinted down the right sideline untouched.
The 82-yard return touchdown was tied for the fifth longest in Ravens history and was the team's first punt return touchdown since Tandon Doss scored on Sept. 22, 2013 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Doss' touchdown also covered 82 yards.
Another career first
Justin Forsett's season-ending arm injury opened the door for rookie Buck Allen, who said all week that he was ready for the opportunity.
The fourth-round NFL draft pick looked the part early Monday and capitalized with his first career touchdown. Allen caught quarterback Matt Schaub's dump-off pass over the middle and broke several tackles before powering into the end zone for a 13-yard score.
Allen's first career touchdown came on Schaub's first touchdown pass since Dec. 22, 2013.
So much for continuity
For the first time in team history, the Ravens started the season with the same offensive line in back-to-back years. But it was a luxury that they didn't enjoy for long.
With Monroe and Osemele inactive Monday and center Jeremy Zuttah on injured reserve, the Ravens started their fourth offensive line alignment in 11 games. James Hurst started at left tackle with Ryan Jensen making his second career start at left guard and John Urschel his second career start at center. Jensen and Urschel started in last week's victory against the St. Louis Rams, but Monroe was at left tackle.
The four offensive line combinations match how many the Ravens used in 16 regular-season games last year. But last season, the Ravens had their group of starters — Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah, Marshal Yanda and Rick Wagner — together for 11 of 16 games. This year, that group was together for all of five games.
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was shaken up in the second quarter, but he missed just a couple of plays before returning to the game. ... To make room for the addition of Daniel Brown and Johnson on the 53-man roster, the Ravens cut wide receiver-kick returner Chuck Jacobs and placed tight end Chase Ford (shoulder) on injured reserve. That leaves them with 17 players on injured reserve, not counting tight end Dennis Pitta, who will finish the season on the physically unable to perform list. The Ravens have two open spots on the practice squad. … Wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel, guard Joel Bitonio, defensive lineman Randy Starks (Maryland) and defensive backs Joe Haden, Pierre Desir and Don Jones were the Browns' inactives. Demoted quarterback Johnny Manziel was active, but was listed as third string. … The Cincinnati Bengals signed former Ravens cornerback-returner Asa Jackson to the practice squad.