Special Teams Seeking Improvement

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As much as the Ravens played exceptionally on offense and defense in their 38-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, their special teams performance may have been the exception.

A blocked punt. A missed field goal. Penalties on punt returns that limited the offense.

All are scenarios no coach wants to see, and the Ravens witnessed them all on Sunday.

While they are all regrettable, they are also correctable. According to head coach John Harbaugh, fixing those mistakes was a major focus of Monday's meetings and light practice session.

The most glaring gaffe may have been the blocked punt, because the resulting touchdown allowed the Chiefs back into the game when the Ravens were still pitching a shutout.

With the score 10-0 Baltimore, punter Sam Koch set up in his own end zone, but one player missed a block and Kansas City safety Jon McGraw was given unimpeded access to the backfield.

McGraw blocked the punt and then pounced on the football for a touchdown. In a matter of seconds, the Ravens' lead was cut to only three points.

"It was very identifiable and very easily corrected," Harbaugh said. "[It was] disappointing in the sense that there was no look that we hadn't seen hundreds of times. We just got a little bit, I guess, frozen for a second. Give [No.] 47. Their guy, he's a really good player. He's been around for a long time, and he went and got it."

Harbaugh, a longtime special teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, has been in this situation before and knows how to fix the problem, along with assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

"Sometimes you have a protection bust in punt protection or field goal protection and they don't get it, and you kind of live to talk about it. Well, we didn't live to talk about it," Harbaugh continued. "That was really a momentum changer because that was something they took advantage of. Sometimes they will come through there clean and won't get it. Sometimes they will come through clean and tip it. Sometimes they will go out the back of the end zone for a safety and not get to the end zone.

"That's corrected. It's just something we can't let happen."

McGraw admitted that he expected another player to have a free run at Koch, but he found himself the recipient of the gift. He just had to find it, next.

"When I blocked the punt, I had no idea where the ball was," McGraw explained. "My momentum took me into the end zone, and a couple of guys missed falling on the ball. In that situation, the last thing you want is to let the ball roll out of the end zone for a safety. So, we were all trying to recover the ball. I saw it and just fell on it.

"It's really rare to block a punt and recover it for a touchdown."

The effect of that play was compounded later in the second quarter when kicker Steve Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal because of a late gust of wind moving from right to left, which would have helped lessen the blow of the touchdown.

As for the penalties, Domonique Foxworth was flagged for illegal use of his hands that backed the Ravens from their 34-yard line to the 20 on Kansas City's first punt of the day.

Then, Fabian Washington's illegal use of the hands flag later in the first quarter moved the Ravens to their own 8-yard line.  Returner Chris Carr was handcuffed, as he only totaled 6 yards on two punt returns and averaged 21 yards on three kickoff returns.

There were some positives, as well. Harbaugh pointed to the kick coverage, where the Ravens kicked off six times and allowed only 19.7 yards per return.

"We don't want any penalties, not those kind of penalties," Harbaugh noted. "Those are things we have to work on. But, there were a lot of good things too, especially the coverage part of it. I thought we blocked pretty decent on those returns and hopefully we'll get some returns going."

The Ravens have a typical NFL in-season week to remedy their special teams before playing the San Diego Chargers next Sunday.

And, they have already undertaken the matter in earnest.

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