The unsung heroes of special teams

The unsung heroes of special teams
November 20, 2012, 4:30 am
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Jacoby Jones rightfully gets most of the credit for his electrifying returns, including his 63-yard punt return touchdown that sparked the Ravens to their 13-10 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night.

But there are 10 other men on the return team, and as Jones will quickly point out, they are critical to Jones' success.

"The boys set the wall for me," he said after the game Sunday night.

Those are the unsung heroes of this team, and they had a huge hand in the win over the Steelers seeing as Jones' score was the only time the Ravens found the end zone.

For a player on the so-called roster bubble in August, his work on special teams often dictates whether he will earn an NFL paycheck. And the play of the return unit this year has validated the roster choices made by general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens, as well as the schemes drawn up by coach John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

A more thorough look at that punt return score -- the first in the regular season against the Steelers in Heinz Field history -- shows just how big a part was played by the guys whose names don't usually show up in the headlines or box score.

Jones explained that Rosburg called for a left return, and after Jones fielded the punt, he hesitated for a moment, "so they could get down and get on their blocks."

In that time, Sean Considine to the inside and Josh Bynes to the outside sealed off their opponents and created a huge running lane for Jones, who shot through the gap.

"Josh Bynes did a great job of pushing his guy off when I got inside," Jones said.

Jones proceeded virtually untouched the rest of the way, thanks in part to a hit by Albert McClellan and a punishing block by James Ihedigbo.

Reserve safety Anthony Levine, called up from the Ravens' practice squad earlier in the week and playing in his first NFL game, also was a factor, as he picked off cornerback Cortez Allen at the Steelers' 37-yard line as Jones cut to the right.

From there, it was a footrace to the corner of the end zone between Jones and Steelers punter Drew Butler. No contest.

After his franchise-record third return touchdown of the season, Jones was doing all the dancing, but make no mistake: Role players on the return unit such as Considine, Bynes and Levine deserve some dancing shoes, too.