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Steelers can't keep up with Ravens returner Jones

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 12:36 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Steelers punter Drew Butler dives for Baltimore's Jacoby Jones as Jones scores on a return during the first quarter Sunday at Heinz Field. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The one thing Jacoby Jones knows about returning a kick for a touchdown is that you never know when it's going to happen.

“It happens when you least expect it,” Jones said.

And it happens when it's needed the most.

Jones returned a first-quarter punt 63 yards for what turned out to be Baltimore's only touchdown, as the Ravens took control of the AFC North with a 13-10 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field.

It was the first regular-season punt return for a TD by an opponent in the 12-year history of Heinz Field. New England's Troy Brown returned a punt for a touchdown in the 2001 AFC Championship Game.

“Those are the hidden points that makes the difference in games. It was huge,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I am proud of Jacoby and the entire special teams.”

Jones also averaged 29 yards on two kickoff returns.

“Jacoby's been huge,” Harbaugh said.

The Ravens signed Jones late in the spring to help supplement the Ravens wide receiving crew along with return kicks.

The Houston Texans had seen enough of the 27-year-old Jones. His two fumbles (one lost) in a playoff loss to the Ravens last January seemed to seal his fate in Houston.

Now, Jones has been nothing but a spark for the Ravens' special teams.

Jones has returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown against Oakland and 108 yards against Dallas. He felt it was only a matter of time that he returned a punt for a score.

“We have two kickoff returns, it's time to have a punt return,” Jones said. “That is what we emphasized this week. We worked on it real hard and (we) hit like it did in practice.”

Jones fielded Drew Butler's punt at Baltimore's 37, delayed a second until his blockers were in place, and raced up the near sidelines before cutting across the field and outracing Butler to the far corner of the end zone. Only Baron Batch had a chance to tackle him around midfield.

“After that, I did what I do and that's run as fast as possible,” Jones said.

It was the first punt return the Steelers have allowed all season.

“It was a good effort by him,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “They did a nice job, they double-viced our gunners there and when they do that, the tackle has to come from the core of the punt formation and it didn't. Obviously, a significant football play.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com

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