Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings Rewind: Jacoby Jones' 77-yard kickoff return

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 11, 2013 - 7:29 AM

The situation: Up 19-15 with 1:27 left against the Ravens, the Vikings attempted to kick away from Jacoby Jones with a short kick (also known as a mortar kick).

The reason: The Vikings wanted to avoid a similar situation last week when they kicked to Devin Hester, who was contained all game but returned a kick to midfield with 20 seconds left in a tie game.

The kickoff cover unit did a good job bottling Jones all game, but Frazier and special teams coach Mike Priefer didn’t want to risk it again.

“So rather than have another very good returner, Jacoby Jones, a guy who's scored several touchdowns on returns, return the ball for a touchdown, we wanted to make sure we put it in someone else's hands, let someone else catch the ball, let's go down and cover it, similar to what we did with Hester,” Frazier said.

The result: Jones fielded the mortar kick and returned it 77 yards to give the Ravens a 22-19 lead with 1:16 left.

How it happened: 

Jones (circled in yellow) and the Ravens' kickoff return unit (emphasis on the four circled in red) expect a mortar kick the entire time before Blair Walsh even kicks it and begin moving into place. The Vikings attempted the same kick to start overtime to Hester.

Jones begins the play from the end zone but by the time Walsh kicks the ball, he's already at the eight-yard line and still running.

Jones slows down to field the ball at the 23-yard line and his blockers are in place. The Vikings (in blue) only have five guys on that side compared to the six Ravens blockers (in red), and you can see the start of the seam Jones runs through between his blockers.

That small seam turns into a runway for Jones and his lead blocker, fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The Vikings can't break out of their blocks, and Juszczyk helps contain the right side so Jones can break off down the sideline.

Which leaves it all up to the kicker, a returner's dream knowing it's usually the last man to beat. Walsh's poor attempt to push Jones out of bounds becomes the last line of defense for the Vikings. Jones maintains his balance and stays inbounds (running on his own sideline, we should add, so there isn't an opposing coach in his way). Cornerback Shaun Prater tries to catch Jones from behind, but he's at least five yards behind Jones the entire way.

Reaction: “And lo and behold, Jacoby comes up, catches it, and scores,” Frazier said. “So, tough one. We were trying to keep the ball away from him, let someone else have a chance to field it and take some time off the clock. That didn't happen."

It's easy to see it was a bad decision after Jones blows past the kick cover unit. The decision to try and kick away from Jones was a smart idea, but the Ravens had film from the previous week of the same kick and seemed well prepared for the situation.

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Oakland 2 Top 5th Inning
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