BALTIMORE — Jacoby Jones just had to get out of the way. He only needed to flee from the football. Let it bounce and the bounces keep going the Houston Texans way.
Instead, Jones — coach Gary Kubiak's pet project of potential — tried to catch the punt on the bounce, even with two Baltimore Ravens closing in on him.
The result? Predictable and crushing to the Texans' upset chances.
Considering the circumstances, Jones' inexplicable decision has to rank as one of the dumbest playoff gaffes of all time.
The football bounced off Jones' arms inside the Houston 15-yard line. Jimmy Smith returned it to the 2-yard line for the Ravens. Within moments, Baltimore punched it in for a touchdown and a momentum-shifting 7-3 first quarter lead.
Considering the circumstances, Jones' inexplicable decision has to rank as one of the dumbest playoff gaffes of all time. It erased all the good feeling from Danieal Manning's 60-yard return of the opening kickoff, a bit of magic that set the Texans up with a 3-0 lead, gave the underdogs big hope.
Most teams don't even kick the ball to Manning. He's been feared as a returner since he helped the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl. Baltimore dared and he made them pay.
But then, once Houston's defense forced a punt, Jones made his own team pay even more. For a player in his fifth NFL season, one used to returning kicks, the 27-year-old Jones' error rings even more inexcusable. The rest of the game will be about the Texans trying to overcome a gifted touchdown.
Kubiak gave Jones another chance on the very next Baltimore punt. Jones let that punt slip out of his hands too, but he quickly recovered it.
Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates telegraphed an interception to Lardarius Webb though and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco turned that into another touchdown. The first quarter ended with Baltimore holding a 17-3 lead.
And it all started with the punt Jones simply should have run away from.