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Tylan Wallace’s ‘once in a lifetime moment’ is another example of a 2023 Ravens redemption arc

The third-year pro is just the latest in a growing list of players who have stepped up and played the role of the unlikely hero this season.

Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Week 14 featured one of the most exciting games of the 2023 season thus far. The Baltimore Ravens emerged victorious over the Los Angeles Rams 37-31 in overtime thanks to one of the most dramatic finishes in franchise history. The player who made the game-winning play went from believing he might be a longshot to even make the team at the final cutdown in September to coming up clutch in the biggest moment of his career to date.

Third-year wide receiver Tylan Wallace made one of the biggest blunders of the game in the first half when he was one of a couple of Ravens players on the punt team that lined up offsides and was flagged for it. The Rams were in fourth-and-five which meant that the penalty yardage awarded them a free first down and gave their offense new life that they parlayed into a touchdown seven plays later to take the lead back.

Fast forward to overtime and Wallace is filling in for two-time Pro Bowl return specialist and fellow receiver Devin Duvernay who left in the second half with a back injury. After the Rams answered the Ravens’ three-and-out on their first possession of the extended period with one of their own, Wallace—who had never performed punt return duties outside of practice since entering the league—iced the game with an electrifying 76-yard punt return for the walk-off game-winning score.

“Moments like this don’t … You could say [it’s] a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be able to sit down and soak that all in while catching my breath at the same time,” Wallace said postgame when asked why he sat on the bench after the melee that succeed his crucial awe-inspiring play.

Wallace’s two and a half years in the league haven’t been as fruitful as he and many of his supporters would’ve hoped after he fell to the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft despite having a prolific career at Oklahoma State University. During his four seasons in college, he was the Cowboys leading receiver for three years from 2018-2020 where he recorded nearly 200 catches, over 3,300 receiving yards, and 26 touchdowns during that span, and received All-American First and Second Team honors as well All-Big 12.

Minor injuries have landed him on injured reserve over the past two seasons and in 33 career games, he only has six receptions on 13 targets for 56 receiving yards. However, he has emerged as one of the Ravens’ core contributors on special teams and was in even better standing than he envisioned coming into the regular season after a strong training camp.

“I don’t think he was really in as much jeopardy as he thinks he was, because he’s always been so talented. He’s not a guy we’ve ever doubted – his ability and his talent,” Harbaugh said. “He’s had some nagging injuries and had some slow starts to certain seasons, [and] if you look back, he had some training camp issues like two years in a row, but for him to overcome that is what I look at – and to kind of keep bouncing back.

“Tylan was nothing but hard work and positive attitude all the way through, just always praying for his opportunity and hoping for his opportunity, and then he gets it, and you see what he did with it. That’s just … That’s a great story to me. That’s a pretty wonderful thing.”

With Duvernay out for the remainder of the regular season and potentially longer after being placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, Harbaugh told reporters on Monday that Wallace will continue handling punt return duties because “he’s earned it.” On Wednesday, he was unsurprisingly revealed as the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

His ascension makes him the latest in a growing list of players on this year’s team who have earned more playing time and prominent roles by stepping up when the Ravens needed them most and capitalizing on the opportunity.

Others include 10th-year veteran outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, who went from being signed off their respective couches in late August and September to being the team’s second and third-leading sack artists with six or more apiece. Both are on pace to set new career highs with four games left in the regular season and have been disruptive run defenders as well.

Seventh-year veteran defensive back Arthur Maulet was also signed late in the game as the Ravens’ injuries at cornerback in training camp began to mount. He would be added to that list of banged-up players and missed most of camp, but the team still decided to keep him on the final roster. Their roll of the dice that his services would come in handy has paid significant dividends as he has played exceptionally well at times in the slot after starting nickel Ar’Darius Washington was lost for the season due to injury. Maulet is on pace to set several career highs with two sacks, three quarterback hits, four pass breakups, four tackles for loss, and an interception in 11 games.

Fourth-year offensive lineman John Simpson went from being picked up late last season on a whim for potential depth to being a dark horse candidate to win the starting left guard spot and not only emerged victorious but has played well above expectations at times this year.

Fourth-year safety Geno Stone went from being a player who bounced between the practice squad and active roster as a rookie in 2020 after being touted as a steal of a sixth-round pick coming out of Iowa to a special teams contributor. He then worked his way into a rotational role on defense and in the final year of his contract is delivering on those lofty pre-draft projections and has emerged as one of the best ball hawks in the league. Stone not only leads the team but ranks second in the league with a career-high six interceptions and had a streak of four consecutive games in which he picked off a pass from Week 6 to Week 9.

The Ravens bet on elite athletics traits over college production when they selected outside linebacker Odafe Oweh in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Penn State. He showed tremendous promise as a rookie but fell well short of heightened expectations in his second season. After missing four games with an ankle injury earlier this season, Oweh has been a consistently disruptive force both as a run defender on the edge and a pass rusher who has recorded four sacks in his last seven games.

After sitting out the entire 2022 season while he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered putting his body on the line to help the Rams win the Super Bowl 56, three-time Pro Bowl veteran wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s had a slow start to his tenure with the Ravens. Some pundits began to question the signing after he missed two of the team’s first five games and was averaging just 4.6 catches and 27 receiving yards in the first six games he played in through Week 8.

However, what was going overlooked by many early on was his contributions he made drawing key pass interference penalties that helped the offense move the ball downfield. Even though he has been dealing with a shoulder injury, Beckham Jr. has emerged as the Ravens’ No. 1 receiver in their last five games and has been the most productive by a wide margin during that span with 343 receiving yards despite averaging 3.4 receptions during this stretch. The Ravens wanted and needed Beckham Jr. to be healthy and producing at a high level at this crucial juncture of the season, especially after losing three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews indefinitely to injury, and he hasn’t disappointed them.

The last redemption arc feels silly to even mention given everything that he has accomplished in his still budding career but Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has continued to give his critics, doubters, and detractors even less cannon fodder this season. While he isn’t putting up the same torrid record-shattering statistical numbers every week as he did during his unanimous MVP-winning 2019 season, the tremendous strides he has made as a pure pocket passer, has been elite and taken not only his own game but the team’s offense as a whole to another level with much broader and brighter horizons.

All these redemption arcs and inspiring examples of overcoming different forms of adversity have this year’s Ravens’ team poised to make the deepest playoff run in over a decade and very well may culminate in the championship come February 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada.