All season long, the Ravens punt return unit has been among the NFL's best.
But in Sunday's loss to the Redskins, the unit had a breakdown at the worst possible time.
The Ravens allowed a 64-yard punt return by Richard Crawford in overtime, which set the Redskins up for a 34-yard field goal to win the game and hand the Ravens a 31-28 defeat.
"Our guys are very, very proud of how they've covered kicks, and it's something that stunned everybody in that unit," Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Thursday. "Everybody saw what happened and everybody takes it upon their own shoulders to make sure it doesn't happen again."
On the return, punter Sam Koch booted the ball 56 yards and Crawford fielded it close to the sidelines. Anthony Allen was the first man down the field, but he wasn't able to get a hand on Crawford.
After getting by Allen, Crawford had a seam down the middle of the field because the Redskins blockers had cleared a path for him.
He then got into the second level before getting dragged down by Koch at the Ravens 24-yard line. It was the longest punt return the Ravens have allowed this season.
"It didn't take long to figure out. Everybody knew what happened," Rosburg said. "At the same time, they've covered punts well all season long. We've addressed it and are working diligently to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Return coverage was a problem for the Ravens last season, but they made it a point of emphasis to improve in the offseason and the coverage units have ranked as of the league's best. The Ravens give up an average of 8.3 yards per punt return, tied for eighth best in the NFL. Before Sunday's game, the unit had allowed 6.3 yards per punt return, which was fourth in the league.
The punt return coverage team has gone through a number of changes this season because of injuries on the defense, and on Sunday special teams players like Brendon Ayanbadejo and Josh Bynes were forced into action on defense because of a depleted linebacker corps. They then had to pull double duty playing special teams as well.
"I told the guys after the game that I was really proud of how hard they played," Rosburg said. "The front four of that unit, all four of those linebackers, that made up the yards and tackles of that unit, played an extraordinary number of plays in the course of that game. They busted their humps as far as they could down the field. We didn't make the play, and it was just one of those situations where the opponent did a better job than us."