When the Ravens return to work next week, they will be looking to tighten up their performance on special teams.
The Ravens pride themselves on having an elite special teams unit year after year. However, the performance of Baltimore’s special teams wasn’t nearly up to standard during Thursday night’s 42-21 victory over the New York Jets. Some of the special teams miscues included:
- Sam Koch had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
- The Jets averaged 25.6 yards on kickoff returns and 16.0 yards on punt returns.
- Justin Tucker missed an extra point in the first quarter.
- The Ravens were flagged for a delay of game penalty before their last punt, then were called for holding during the return.
Had the game been closer, those mistakes could have been more costly. With the playoffs looming in the not-too-distant future, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens’ special teams play needs to improve.
“We just have to get better,” Harbaugh said. “They were basically blocking us. They blocked our guys on the kickoff return. They did a great job with it. They ran a little pick-stunt on the blocked punt that we should have picked up with no problem, and we didn’t. That’s an issue for us.”
Jets linebacker Tarell Basham said New York entered the game believing it had an excellent chance to block a punt based on pregame preparation.
“Our special teams coordinator [Bryant Boyer] put together a great gameplan for this snapper [Morgan Cox],” Basham said. “He [Boyer] knew we could get after him. He aligned me on him and let me rush him and beat him however I could. I was able to just run him over, and then dive for the block.”
Basham’s punt block was recovered by Jets linebacker B.J. Bello, who ran 14 yards into the end zone for a score. The Ravens led 35-7 at the time, so if there was ever a good time to have a punt blocked, this was it. It was the first blocked punt Baltimore had allowed since Week 3 of last season.
However, the Ravens won’t always have the luxury of having a 28-point lead when erring on special teams. Future opponents will be looking at Baltimore’s special teams on film, looking for areas to exploit.
It didn’t help the Ravens on Thursday night that one of their best special teams players, Chris Board, missed the game with a concussion. The short week between Sunday’s game against Buffalo and Thursday night’s game against the Jets could have played a part in Baltimore being somewhat fatigued on special teams as well.
Tucker’s missed extra point was a rarity for the NFL’s most accurate kicker in history, just the third missed extra point of his career in 295 attempts. However, Baltimore will be looking for its kick coverage and punt protection to improve over its final two games and into the playoffs.
“We played really well on special teams last week,” Harbaugh said. “We played not well at all this week. So, that’s an area of concern right now.”