Ravens rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown identified a weak spot in the Minnesota Vikings' zone coverage scheme, and capitalized on it for the game-winning touchdown Sunday.
When Brown darted behind Vikings middle linebacker Audie Cole, he caught a perfectly-placed lob from quarterback Joe Flacco for a 9-yard touchdown pass with four seconds remaining during the Ravens' 29-26 win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound undrafted free agent secured the football, then dragged his feet inbounds at the back of the end zone. After a brief review, officials confirmed it was a touchdown.
"We lined up, and it was Cover 2 and I just kind of slipped my guy, and it was a great ball from Joe," Brown said. "It's pretty simple. After I caught it, I got up and I looked and I saw my feet drag and I was like, 'All right, I'm in.'"
This marked Brown's team-high sixth-touchdown catch of the season, tying retired Ravens running back Jamal Lewis for the second-most by a rookie in franchise history behind wide receiver Torrey Smith's seven touchdowns in 2011.
"Marlon made some big plays," Flacco said. "I thought they had pretty good coverage on the touchdown play there at the end. Marlon did a good job staying with the ball, dragging his feet and getting it right in the back of the end zone."
Brown set career-highs with seven receptions for 92 yards with five of his receptions generating first downs and one converted a third down.
"He plays like he's been in the league for a while," tight end Ed Dickson said of Brown. "He doesn't play like a rookie."
Brown had been quiet over the previous four games since catching two touchdown passes against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 3, missing a game against the Chicago Bears with a knee injury.
Brown had just a combined three receptions for 23 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, catching one pass in each of those games before emerging as a big factor Sunday against the Vikings.
During the Ravens' game-winning drive, Brown set up his own game-winning score by starting the drive with a 35-yard reception.
"I was out there just trying to make sure I just run my routes right," Brown said. "I didn't want to mess up. It was already the fourth quarter. I didn't want to mess up. I was locking in."
Jones on a tear
Unlike a week ago when he had to alter his path slightly to avoid crashing into Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Jacoby Jones didn't have any interference to deal with Sunday during a long kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Jones returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown with 1:16 remaining to give the Ravens a brief lead following a Vikings touchdown run.
"All week in practice, we'd been working on people kicking us sky kicks," Jones said after the fourth kickoff return touchdown of his career. "After a while, they get nervous or they weren't going to kick the ball deep to us. They popped it up, and I was able to get to the ball, and they did a great job of blocking it for me [fullbacks Kyle Juszczyk and Vonta Leach and linebacker Pernell McPhee.] That thing parted like the Red Sea."
Jones has six kickoff returns for 256 yards in the past two games, averaging 42.7 yards per return. Jones had to run up to secure a short kickoff during his touchdown Sunday.
"I was zoned in, 'Take this thing back,'" said Jones when asked if special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg alerted him to the possibility of a short kickoff. "I'm walking around in the end zone like I usually do, pacing and just happened to turn and look and the kick was short. I was like, 'Oh, snap.' So, I just started hauling butt and thank God I got there in time."
Tight end Ed Dickson scored his first touchdown since the 2011 season.
Dickson caught a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter from Flacco during a day where tight end Dennis Pitta played in his first game of the season since being activated from injured reserve-designated to return and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"The fact that Dennis was back made that happen," Dickson said. "Usually, Dallas Clark would be in there. I got to be physical on the goal line. Then, they called a pass play. Joe threw it up, and I took advantage of it. That got us started and we held that lead for a long time."
Dickson's last touchdown until Sunday came in a Dec. 24, 2011 game against the Cleveland Browns.
"I haven't scored a touchdown in almost two years," Dickson said. "Hopefully, it will open the flood gates."
It was a rough day for Viking star running back Adrian Peterson.
Peterson was carted off the field in the first half with a sprained right foot suffered during a first-half tackle by Ravens rookie linebacker Arthur Brown and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. He'll undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday morning, according to coach Leslie Frazier.
"Adrian Peterson, I wish him a speedy recovery," running back Ray Rice said. "I'm not sure the extent of the injury, but he is somebody I look to for inspiration."
Peterson entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher with 1,208 yards and 10 touchdown runs, but was limited to 13 yards on seven carries Sunday by the Ravens' sixth-ranked run defense.
He was replaced by running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
"They're both big, physical running backs," defensive lineman Arthur Jones said. "Gerhart is a guy who doesn't stop running his feet. I missed a few tackles myself that could have changed the outcome of the game. They're definitely two good backs."
After the game, Peterson complained about the officiating and said the Ravens' fans threw snowballs at him.
"Wow talking about bad officiating & the worst fan base I've ever experience!" Peterson wrote on his official Twitter account. "They threw snow balls the entire 4q like lil kids. Smh."
The Ravens' first touchdown was set up by a fumble in the first quarter by Gerhart that was upheld following a replay challenge.
"I didn't seen enough to overturn the ruling on the field as a fumble," referee Pete Morelli told a pool reporter.
Gerhart appeared to have his knee down, but it was inconclusive enough that the play wasn't overturned.
"I felt like I had both knees down, and, unfortunately, they saw it different," Gerhart said. "I felt like I had both knees down, and I was just kind of going down to the ground and he ripped it out at the last second and that's the way it goes."
Rookie free safety Matt Elam recovered the fumble that was forced by strong safety James Ihedigbo.
"They told me it was too close to overturn," Frazier said. "Our guys upstairs thought it was clear that his knees were down."
Dumervil sidelined, Stokley injured
Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was scratched after not practicing all week.
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley played one week after injuring his left knee, but left the game with a head injury after getting hurt in the fourth quarter
Dumervil had been listed as doubtful, and was described as a game-time decision by Harbaugh on Friday.
This ended a 44-game consecutive game streak for Dumervil that dated back to the 2011 season when he was with the Denver Broncos.
Dumervil was replaced by Courtney Upshaw with linebacker Albert McClellan making a rare defensive appearance. Upshaw was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a late hit on quarterback Matt Cassel in the the third quarter leading up to Vikings touchdown pass to Jerome Simpson at the start of the fourth quarter. Upshaw had just one tackle and McClellan had none on defense.
Rookie outside linebacker John Simon was active for the first time since an Oct. 20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I haven't played on defense since the preseason, but it's no biggie," said McClellan, who had two special teams tackles. "I'm always ready. My role on the team is being wherever they need me whenever they call on me."
Fun in the cold
Video of reserve cornerback Asa Jackson running around in warmups without a shirt quickly went viral.
A California native, Jackson spent several minutes with no shirt on in snowy, freezing weather an hour before kickoff until secondary coach Teryl Austin told him to put his shirt back on.
"I was really trying to psyche myself into being able to go no-sleeves," Jackson said. "Once I went out there and it was snowing it wasn't as cold as I thought. I just wanted to take my shirt off, so I could feel it.
"I forgot I didn't put an undershirt on, so I was bare-chested. It wasn't bad. I was trying to psyche myself into it and it worked."
Rice had 109 total yards from scrimmage on 67 rushing yards in 17 carries and 42 receiving yards in five receptions. The Ravens improved to 31-13 when Rice has 100 yards or more from scrimmage … The Ravens improved to 15-2 in games in Baltimore with the temperature below 40 degrees, winning 15 of the past 16 games. Temperature at kickoff was 33 degrees. … The Ravens had previously ruled out rookie safety Brynden Trawick because of a high-ankle sprain that has now kept him out for three games. … The Ravens' other scratches were Clark, who had extremely limited snaps in practice this week with Pitta's return, as well as defensive tackle Brandon Williams, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, safety Omar Brown and center Ryan Jensen.