Sports

Jacoby Jones follows blocks to NFL-tying return record

SportsFootballBaltimore RavensNFLDallas CowboysHouston TexansDeonte Thompson

With his long stride carrying him past defenders, Ravens return specialist Jacoby Jones followed his blocks and rapidly accelerated away from the Dallas Cowboys.

Jones didn't stop until he had reached the end zone and entered the NFL record book with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Sunday to tie a league record and set a franchise record for longest kickoff return.

"I told him before the game I knew he was going to get a touchdown," cornerback Cary Williams said following the Ravens' 31-29 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. "Jacoby was riding on that play. We called him Secretariat. He's got unbelievable speed. He's a tremendous athlete, a great returner. For him to do that, it was crucial."

Signed to a two-year, $7 million contract in the spring, the former Houston Texans third-round draft pick bolted upfield behind blocks from Anthony Allen, Vonta Leach, Corey Graham and Sean Considine.

"Honestly in practice, we had one that hit the same way, so I already had a vision," Jones said. "When I caught it, I found Anthony Allen and he said, 'Follow me.' He was my eyes. He led me to daylight. That thing spread like the Red Sea."

Jones' touchdown boosted the Ravens' lead to 24-13 in the third quarter.

The return tied the Green Bay Packers' Randall Cobb (Sept. 8, 2011, against the New Orleans Saints) and the New England Patriots' Ellis Hobbs (Sept. 9, 2007, against the New York Jets) for the longest kickoff return in NFL history.

And it eclipsed David Reed's 103-yard kickoff return two seasons ago against the Texans for the longest in franchise history.

It also marked his fifth career return for a touchdown — three on punts and two on kickoffs.

Jones said he could tell by the crowd's approval that he was on his way to something big.

"That's when I knew I was free," Jones said. "I just opened it up, and I just ran as fast as possible."

B. Williams starts

It had been a long time since veteran offensive guard Bobbie Williams had started a regular-season game.

Specifically, not since Dec. 11 last year when he broke his right ankle against the Texans while playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Williams regained his starting job, replacing Ramon Harewood. Harewood had started the first five games, allowing one sack and a dozen quarterback pressures.

Except for being steamrolled by defensive tackle Jason Hatcher on a sack by outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, Williams seemed to hold up solidly overall.

"I think I did pretty well," Williams said. "I'm just thankful. I wanted to try to do my best. We came out with a victory, and that's a plus."

Unlike the preseason when his ankle constantly bothered him and would swell up, Williams said he didn't experience any pain or difficulties.

"It felt good," he said. "It was definitely something to build on."

The Ravens signed Williams, 36, to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in the spring that included an $800,000 signing bonus.

"I think the decision to start Bobbie was that Bobbie is getting healthy right now, and that ankle is starting to really come around," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Ramon had been playing well. That's the thing I want to make sure everyone understands.

"It's not that we're down about Ramon. It's nothing that Ramon did. He stepped in there and played well for a guy who hadn't played much football at all. But we felt like the experience was something that would benefit us."

Ngata plays through pain

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata sprained his right knee and aggravated a minor right shoulder injury, but returned to play after getting checked out in the locker room.

Ngata recorded six tackles and the Ravens' only sack.

"The shoulder was stressing me out and I hurt my knee a little bit," Ngata said. "I had to fight through that throughout the game. I felt like I would finish all along. We had a good rotation going."

Meanwhile, cornerback Jimmy Smith strained his groin. He downplayed the injury that prevented him from finishing the game as Chykie Brown replaced him.

"I'll be fine," Smith said.

Nose guard Ma'ake Kemoeatu had a minor undisclosed injury.

Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe sprained his right ankle, but returned.

Thompson deactivated

Rookie kick returner Deonte Thompson was deactivated for the first time this season one week after losing a fumble during a 9-6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens also deactivated offensive tackle Jah Reid, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, defensive linemen Bryan Hall and DeAngelo Tyson and rookie cornerback Asa Jackson.

The Cowboys played without starting outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (strained pectoral).

Milestone for Birk

Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk played in his 200th career game, starting his 102nd consecutive game for the longest active streak in the NFL among centers.

"The most important thing is we won the game," Birk said. "I'm glad it's over. Next week, let's not talk about 201. I'm thankful to be in the league. I get to live the dream."

End zone

Brown took issue with a defensive pass interference penalty on him late in the fourth quarter. "I don't think I interfered," Brown said. "I think it was a good play. I'm going for the ball." ... Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray left with a foot injury after rushing for 93 yards. Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne left the game with a left knee injury. ... The Ravens recognized the Orioles in a video tribute during the game with manager Buck Showalter and players Adam Jones, Taylor Teagarden, Lew Ford and Brian Matusz attending the game.

awilson@baltsun.com

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