Notebook: What Happened On Final Kick Return?

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What Happened On Final Kick Return?

The Ravens had just tied the game at 16-16 when they kicked off to the Pittsburgh Steelers with one minute, 58 seconds left in regulation. The ball bounced in the end zone, and return man Emmanuel Sanders decided to bring it out for a return after fielding the kick seven yards deep in the end zone.

Sanders came up the right sideline and ran past the Ravens' coverage units, trotting all the way to the end zone for what was nearly a 107-yard kickoff return.

But Sanders stepped out of bounds at the Steelers' 37-yard line, negating the touchdown but still giving Pittsburgh favorable field position on their final drive.

"It hurt field position, but a lot less than it would have if it had gone all the way," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh explained that the Ravens defenders on the coverage units did not maintain their assignments, allowing Sanders to get up the field.

"Our contain guy, that's just unforgiveable to let the ball get outside of you right there," Harbaugh said. "There's* *absolutely no reason for it. The ball was bouncing around down there. It's not like they've got that schemed up with the ball bouncing like that."

The field position put the Steelers in a prime spot to execute a game-winning two-minute drive. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger quickly moved his offense up the field and got the Steelers all the way to Baltimore's 24-yard line. 

Kicker Shaun Suisham then booted a 42-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Steelers a 19-16 victory.

The final kick, set up by Sanders' return, was a point of frustration after the loss.

"That should have never happened," Harbaugh said.

Why Not Ice The Kicker?

As Suisham came onto the field to attempt the game-winning field goal, Harbaugh decided not to use a timeout in an attempt to "ice" the kicker. Some coaches call timeout in those situations to give kickers more time to think about high-pressure situations, but that strategy has mixed results.

"I really don't know the science on that because there really is none that proves things one way or another," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh did not want to use a timeout because that would have given Suisham additional time to work on the muddy grass surface. The grass at Heinz Field was chewed up after the University of Pittsburgh played there Saturday night, especially in the middle of the field where the ball was spotted.

"I didn't feel like it would be the smart thing to do because the field was a little ruddy there, and you give him a little more time to prepare the plant foot and all of that," Harbaugh said. "If you ice him, you just give him more time to prepare."

McClain Returns, Comes Out Healthy

A positive event overshadowed by Sunday's loss was linebacker Jameel McClain's return to the field after being sidelined more than 10 months with a spinal cord contusion.

McClain started and finished the game with six total tackles.

"I waited a long time for this moment and my vision was something different than what happened," McClain said. "On a personal note, it was good that I was able to get the opportunity to go back out there when it wasn't believed that it was possible. On a team note, it's very disappointing. I'm a team-first guy, so the loss is really the only thing that matters."

McClain did not find much solace in returning in a losing effort, and dismissed a question about whether the loss was "bittersweet."

"It's not even sweet," McClain said. "It's bitter. We lost. It's a bad feeling. How can you think about how you feel for individual accolades when we lose as a team?"

Despite the loss, perhaps the most positive note for McClain and the Ravens was that he did not suffer any setbacks in the return.

"Jameel came out of it healthy," Harbaugh said. "He didn't have any problems. It seemed like he played well. We'll watch the tape and see but for him to be back is a big bonus for us going forward. It builds our depth defensively and special teams wise."

Dumervil's Penalties Prove Costly

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil had a rough game in his Ravens-Steelers rivalry debut.

He finished with three tackles and a half sack, but he was also penalized three times on a Steelers' third-quarter scoring drive. Dumervil was penalized for a facemask, a personal foul and for jumping offsides.

The Steelers ended up getting a field goal on the drive.

"You want to play aggressive, but at the same time you can't cost your team," Dumervil said. "So as a veteran you have to be aware of the strike zones and when to lay off.  You never want to hurt your team." 

The facemask call came on a third-down play as Dumervil and Haloti Ngata were bringing down Roethlisberger for a sack. Dumervil momentarily grabbed the facemask before letting go and bringing Roethlisberger to the ground.

"That's one where you just can't grab the facemask, but Ben ducks all the time," Harbaugh said. "You have to just find a way not to do that. I mean what do you say? He's trying to wrap him up. This is the biggest, strongest quarterback in the National Football League. We have to wrap him up strong and bring him down, but you feel yourself around the face area, he drops down, you have to get your fingers out of there somehow."

Problems Finding End Zone

The problem for the Ravens' offense in Sunday's loss was that they were unable to capitalize on their* *limited possessions.

The unit had just one three-and-out on the game, but they did not get into the end zone until their final possession and struggled once they got into Steelers' territory.

"I thought we moved the ball pretty well," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I thought once we got in the red zone we got shut down a little bit. Every score was really pivotal in who won the game today."

The Ravens had just seven possessions on the game, and got points on four of them. The offense made five trips inside the Steelers' 35-yard line, but had to settle for three field goals and also a punt on those drives.

"It seemed like there was not a lot of possessions out there today," Flacco said. "When you get a game like that where you have so few possessions you have to make them all count. We weren't able to get in the end zone enough."

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