The start of James Hurst's NFL career was remarkably quiet.
Keeping a low profile is typically good thing for an offensive lineman, and the undrafted rookie was mostly invisible in his Week 4 debut when he took over the left tackle job due to starter Eugene Monroe's knee injury.
That goal of staying out of the spotlight didn't happen for Hurst Sunday, as the left tackle was flagged for three holding calls and struggled early against Atlanta's pass rush.
"The first half was a struggle," Hurst said. "I had three or four really bad plays that hurt the team. In the second half, I kind of got more comfortable and understood the players a little bit more after a few more snaps against them. I really settled in and felt like I finished out pretty well."
Hurst was hit with a pair of holding calls on the same drive in the first quarter, which came on similar plays. Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi lined up over Hurst, and then beat him both times with an inside move. Instead of giving up the sack, Hurst latched onto the defender twice to prevent him from getting to quarterback Joe Flacco.
"It was really my awareness that let me down," Hurst said. "I just have to see the guy out there blitzing. He blitzed and put an inside move on me and I was just behind. My feet were behind and I just didn't want to give up the hit or anything, so I felt like I had to hold onto him."
The third holding call came later in the second quarter when Massaquoi tried to beat Hurst around the edge. That play put the Ravens in a hole, but they were able to overcome and still get a touchdown on that drive to take a 14-0 first-half lead.
"On the last one, he was just trying to run around the pocket. I didn't feel like I was in that bad of position, but they saw something and called it," Hurst said. "That's how football goes. I just have to look at them on film and see what to correct and what I can do to get in better position."
Part of the challenge for Hurst in the first half was that the Falcons tried to attack him with some exotic pressure packages. Hurst was making just the fourth start of his career, and he had fellow rookie John Urschel next to him, who was playing the second game of his career.
"They threw the kitchen sink at us, defensively, scheme wise," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We had every blitz and every kind of front coverage. They're disguising really well. I thought [Falcons Head Coach] Mike Smith and [Defensive Coordinator] Mike Nolan did a great job with their game plan, and they got us a few times early."
While the Falcons took advantage of the young offensive lineman early, Hurst shook off the miscues and settled into a groove during the second half. He wasn't flagged again after the three holding calls, and the Ravens allowed just two quarterback hits in the second half.
"He did a good job of moving onto the next play," center Jeremy Zuttah said. "The position he plays is not easy. I think he did a good job of shaking it off and just bouncing back to fight through it."
Hurst is expected to remain in the starting lineup for as long as Monroe is sidelined this season. When Monroe first went down, Harbaugh said he would be out "some number of weeks," and he has already missed four games.
Monroe practiced in a limited capacity for one day last week, which was his first time on the practice field since having surgery. He is closer to returning to game action, but Hurst said he is confident to hold down the blindside of the offensive line for long as Monroe is sidelined.
"I feel really good about it. I feel like every week I've gotten a lot better," Hurst said. "Obviously I had the holding calls, but outside of that I feel really good about how I played, the things I did, the technique I was able to use."