Wallace returned a punt 76 yards for a walk-off, winning touchdown in overtime to beat the Los Angeles Rams 37-31 in Week 14, but Harbaugh admitted the wideout might not have been on the field because the Ravens had “considered” putting rookie Zay Flowers in as a returner.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Harbaugh said “we considered putting Zay out there too.” Ultimately, the coach chose to stick with Wallace, “a veteran player, fourth-year guy who’s kind of been through it, you know? You just kinda felt like, it wasn’t a conscious thing, you just felt like, he deserves it and he’s ready for that moment.”
Duvernay’s absence put the spotlight on Wallace, who made the most of his first-ever career punt return, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. In the process, Wallace helped the Ravens survive a tough test from the rebuilding Rams, who pushed arguably the AFC’s most talented team all the way at M&T Bank Stadium.
Tylan Wallace Made & Repeated History for Ravens
Wallace made a nice spin move before accelerating up the sideline to ice a game the Ravens looked like they’d let slip.
The spectacular return not only let the Ravens escape with a victory. It also meant the franchise recorded a punt return for a touchdown for the first time since “since Nov. 25, 2018 (Cyrus Jones vs Raiders),” per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, citing ESPN Stats & Info.
Hensley also revealed how Wallace’s TD meant the Ravens repeated an identical score from identical circumstances in their series against the Rams:
On that day in 1996, it took a 22-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to wide receiver Michael Jackson to see off the then-St. Louis Rams in Baltimore.
The Ravens needed some special teams magic this time, although not everybody thinks Wallace’s score should have stood.
Ravens Might Have Gotten Away With One vs. Rams
Every winning team needs a little luck, and the Ravens got theirs when officials missed an apparent block in the back that helped spring Wallace. The non-call was highlighted by Yahoo’s Charles Robinson.
It’s tough on the Rams, but Wallace might have felt he was owed some good fortune after a difficult time with the Ravens.
Tylan Wallace Can Turn Key Play Into Bigger Role
He’s only made a mere six catches before this season and not registered a single reception in the current campaign. Wallace had become merely a roster body, but his game-clinching play could lead to a bigger role, at least on special teams.
A paltry two kick returns to his credit before Week 14 explains why the Ravens were thinking about turning to Flowers. The latter averaged 6.1 yards on seven punt returns for Boston College in 2022, per Sports Reference.
Flowers has more value in the pros on offense, where he’s become one of Lamar Jackson’s go-to targets. Wallace is never likely to earn that distinction, but he can develop a niche as a more active return man if Duvernay is sidelined for a while.