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Special teams provided brief highlights in Ravens’ overtime loss to Chicago Bears

Ravens punt returner Michael Campanaro leaps over Bears defender Cre'von LeBlanc on his way to a 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Ravens punt returner Michael Campanaro leaps over Bears defender Cre'von LeBlanc on his way to a 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

With an offense going nowhere and a defense being run over Sunday, the Ravens needed a spark, which was provided by the previously quiet special teams unit.

Bobby Rainey scored the team's first touchdown on a 96-yard kick return in the third quarter. Then Michael Campanaro added a 77-yard punt return for a score before the Ravens lost in overtime, 27-24, to the Bears at M&T Bank Stadium.

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It marked the first time in franchise history that the team had a kick and punt return for touchdowns in the same game. Veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said he wished the offense and defense had taken advantage of the plays.

"They gave us a chance, and we knew we were capable of those kinds of plays on special teams. They gave us a chance, and we fought all the way back," he said. "Like I said, it's just disappointing to lose the way we did."

With an announced crowd of 70,616 lulled into boredom and a 17-3 Ravens deficit through the first 39 minutes of the game, Rainey injected some much-needed adrenaline into the stadium with his return with 5:47 left in the third quarter.

On the play, Rainey caught the kickoff from kicker Connor Barth at the Ravens' 4-yard line before turning upfield and barreling into teammate and rookie outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and falling to the turf.

But Rainey had the presence of mind to note that no official had blown a whistle. So he picked himself up and continued running until he made it to the end zone.

Chicago's Joshua Bellamy dove at Rainey's feet, but did not touch the returner, and an official review upheld the on-field ruling that Rainey had scored.

"That's what you're taught," said Rainey, who gave the Ravens their first kick return for a score since Nov. 2, 2014. Jacoby Jones had a 108-yard return that day in a 43-23 loss at the Steelers. "When you hear the whistle, that's when you stop. If you don't hear the whistle, keep going. I kind of knew that the guy did not tag me down. My own guy flipped me and when I got up, I could see only my guys around me, and I did not hear a whistle. So I kept going."

Informed that his score was the NFL's first kick return for a touchdown this season, Rainey – who scored the first special teams touchdown of his career just one day before his 30th birthday on Monday – replied, "I did not know that. So that's good. But we ended up with a loss. So it's pretty much bittersweet."

Not to be outdone, Campanaro had the Ravens' first punt return for a touchdown since Nov. 30, 2015, when Kaelin Clay took an 82-yarder to the end zone in a 33-27 win at the Cleveland Browns.

Campanaro fielded the punt at the 23, navigated to the left side of the field and raced down the left sideline into the end zone with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. The offense converted a 2-point attempt to tie the score at 24-24.

"It was an awesome design," said Campanaro, the Clarksville native and River Hill graduate. "We had it set up great. We got the punt we wanted and a few key blocks on that return. We were able to get the corner, and special teams made a huge play just getting us back in it."

Bears coach John Fox said he thought Rainey was touched when he was down, but declined to criticize the officials.

"That was obviously a big play for them," Fox said. "The last one [punt return], we had a couple of nicks that hurt us. So we had a couple of guys in there that hadn't done it a lot, no offense. But they executed better than we did on those plays."

Campanaro, who returned five punts for 132 yards for the third-most in the team's single-game history, said the key now for special teams is to continue to build on its success.

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"It kept us in the game, but we can't be satisfied with that as a special teams unit," he said. "We have to keep building and realize the type of special teams unit that we have. We have some of the best special teams players in the league and Coach Jerry [Rosburg] is obviously one of the top special teams coaches in the league. So we have to take advantage of that and keep making plays."

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