Ravens allow first punt return for TD in NFL playoffs since 2013

Steven Sims was on the Houston Texans’ practice squad less than a week ago. He was promoted to the active roster Tuesday, and by Saturday would high-step his way for a game-tying touchdown against the Ravens.

The 67-yard punt return, which tied the AFC divisional round matchup at 10 with 4:17 left in the second quarter, was historic for a few reasons.

In 16 seasons under coach and former special teams coordinator John Harbaugh, the Ravens had only surrendered five punt return touchdowns, including one by Cincinnati Bengals rookie Charlie Jones in Week 2. Sims’ nearly untouched return, save for a diving attempt by punter Jordan Stout, also marked the first punt return for a touchdown in the NFL playoffs since 2013, according to Pro Football Reference. It was the first punt return for a touchdown by a Texans player since 2016.

Sims, a veteran of five NFL seasons with Washington, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston, entered Saturday averaging 6.4 yards on 53 career punt returns, though he did return a kickoff for a touchdown as a rookie in 2019. Saturday’s touchdown was his first of any kind since 2020.

ESPN play-by-play announcer Joe Buck noted the importance of special teams contributions in games like this, with Houston entering Saturday as 9 1/2-point underdogs on the road. His call on Sims’ return also paid homage to Baltimore’s past special teams success in playoff runs, namely by Jacoby Jones, who was in attendance with other stars Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.

The top-seeded Ravens, who finished the regular season with the league’s best record, entered halftime tied at 10 with Houston, which beat the Cleveland Browns, 45-14, last week in the wild-card round.

This story might be updated.