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Tylan Wallace Goes From the Bottom to the Top Delivering Walk-Off Win

Wallace Redemption

As fans were exiting M&T Bank Stadium, after every other player had gone to the locker room to celebrate the team's wild 37-31 wild walk-off overtime win, Tylan Wallace flopped down on a Ravens sideline bench.

For one thing, he was tired – not only after sprinting, spinning, and stumbling his way to a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown, but after being mobbed by his teammates afterwards. Secondly, he wanted to savor the moment.

Wallace wasn't even supposed to be the punt returner. He was the backup to Pro Bowler Devin Duvernay, who suffered a back injury in the first half. Wallace had never even returned a punt in his three-year NFL career.

In September, as training camp broke and tough decisions were being made, Wallace wasn't even sure if he was going to make the team. He was one of the last ones on.

On top of that, he had earlier in the game committed a brutal penalty when he lined up offsides on a Rams punt, giving them a free first down they later turned into a touchdown.

But there he was, trusted in rainy conditions in a game that felt like two playoff teams slugging it out down the stretch, winning the game for his team. In three years, it was his first regular-season touchdown.

"Moments like this don't …" Wallace said, trailing off. "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 was a fourth-round pick in 2021, an ultra-productive receiver out of Oklahoma State. But he's been buried on the Ravens' wide receiver pecking order so far in his career. When the Ravens were making cuts at the end of training camp, Wallace sat in his car in the parking lot at the Under Armour Performance Center, waiting to see if his phone would ring with bad news. When it didn't, he knew he made the team.

He's made a living on special teams. When a special teams player makes an error like lining up offsides on a routine punt, giving the opponent a free first down, it stings. Long before Wallace gave a speech to his team in the celebratory postgame locker room, he got a speech from Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton on the sideline.

"They were telling me, 'You know, it happens. Penalties happen,'" Wallace said. "Obviously, you don't want it to happen too often, but just wipe that away. … I appreciate them for believing in me to be back there to make plays for the team."

Even though Wallace was the next man up, Head Coach John Harbaugh admitted that the Ravens did consider using rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers as the punt returner.

The Rams' punt returner had already muffed two punts earlier in the game due to wet conditions. Wallace only gets a handful of punt return reps in practice each week and had made the mistake earlier in the game, which could rattle any player, especially one on the back end of the 53-man roster. But the Ravens stuck with Wallace.

"Tylan – here's a veteran player, fourth-year guy who's been through it. We just felt like – it wasn't a conscious thing – we just felt like he deserved it," Harbaugh said. "He was ready for that moment. Now, did [we] think he was going to take it back to the house? No, but I thought he'd catch it [and] maybe make a guy miss."

Wallace did a lot more than that. After making the catch, he took off to his left and caught a block from tight end Charlie Kolar, who hit college roommate and good friend Jacob Hummel. Kolar thought there was a chance it would be called blocking in the back, but no flag.

Then Wallace spun off a tackle by Rams running back Royce Freeman. He scampered up the sideline and lowered his shoulder to fend off a tackle by Rams long snapper Alex Ward. Then Rams defensive back Shaun Jolly dove at Wallace's ankles and got a piece, making Wallace start to stumble.

"I was about to go down, [but I thought] I can't go down right here. I made it this far," Wallace said. "I'm like, 'I have to keep going. I have to stay up.'"

When Wallace did get to the Ravens locker room, his teammates were waiting with water bottles to dump on his head, setting off a whole-team dance and capped with a hug from Harbaugh.

"For everything you've done, everything you've fought for, all the hardship right there, man," Harbaugh said.

Last week, during the Ravens' bye, Wallace bought his mother a new Mercedes SUV. He had been waiting three years to make that magic happen for her. On Sunday, he made his own magic with the biggest play of his NFL career so far.

"That was a game," Wallace said to his teammates. "All the ups and downs, we kept fighting, we kept going. Y'all helped me, man. Next man up. I'm just happy I can make a difference for this team. I appreciate you all."

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