It was an extremely successful regular season across the board for the Baltimore Ravens’ special teams. Jacoby Jones was one of just five returners in the NFL to have both a punt and kickoff return for a touchdown. The Ravens as a team did not allow a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown through the first 17 games of the season, as assistant coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg did a bang up job.
Then Saturday happened.
In a nip and tuck game where a coupe big plays could determine the outcome, that was exactly the case, as the Ravens’ special teams nearly sabotaged their season against the Denver Broncos.
After a promising opening drive of the game stalled after two first downs, Sam Koch punted the ball away to a backpedaling Trindon Holliday.
Holliday spun backwards at his own 10-yard-line, and proceeded to fly up the sideline 90 yards for a touchdown before Peyton Manning ever got his hands (or gloves) on the football. The 90-yard return was the first punt return in Broncos’ postseason history and the longest punt return in NFL playoff history.
The Ravens’ offense and defense picked up the special teams as each unit scored a touchdown to answer back and give the Ravens a 14-7 lead. The teams continued to exchange blows en route to a 21-21 halftime draw.
However, the Ravens got off to a disastrous start in second half, as Holliday wasn’t done re-writing the history books.
Holliday took the opening kickoff of the second half 104 yards for the Broncos’ first postseason kickoff return for a touchdown ever. The 104-yard return was also the longest kickoff return in NFL postseason history, and Holliday’s combined return yardage total of 255 yards was also an NFL postseason record.
Holliday, along with Jones, was also one of five returners to have both a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown, as Holliday overshadowed the All-Pro Jones in their head-to-head match-up.
Considering how Joe Flacco outdueled Manning and Ray Rice ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown, the special teams touchdowns allowed negated some of that offensive production and sucked the energy out of the Ravens temporarily.
Thus, after a season of absolutely shutting down the return game, the results on Saturday were catastrophic and completely blindsiding. If not for the play of the offense and the defense bending without breaking, the special teams play would’ve ended the season and the career of Ray Lewis.
If the Ravens’ special teams betray them again, the outcome won’t be as rosy this time around. Tom Brady and the highest scoring offense in the NFL don’t need charity points, but if they get them, it will be a long game and offseason for the Ravens.