Team takes ‘Block that kick’ cheer se­ri­ously

Spe­cial teams unit prides it­self on ris­ing to chal­lenge as one of league’s best

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

When Brent Ur­ban came crash­ing through the Jack­sonville Jaguars’ of­fen­sive line to block kicker Ja­son My­ers’ 52-yard field-goal at­tempt Sun­day, it gave the Ravens hope.

With­out Ur­ban’s block with just less than three min­utes left in the fourth quar­ter, Justin Tucker likely doesn’t get to at­tempt a 54-yard game-win­ning kick to lift the Ravens to a 3-0 start.

The Ravens lead the league in blocked kicks with 10 since 2014, and it’s not just luck. They work on it over and over again.

“Every time we line up, we ex­pect to block it,” said Ur­ban, the Ravens’ tallest player at 6 feet 7. “We’ve had great re­sults in the past and we get good knock­back. All the praise goes to the guys be­side me — [nose tackle] Bran­don Wil­liams, [de­fen­sive end] Lawrence Guy, coach Jerry Ros­burg for teach­ing me the tech­nique.”

Block­ing kicks — field-goal at­tempts, ex­tra-point tries or punts — might be an over­looked as­pect of the game else­where, but in Bal­ti­more, it re-em­pha­sizes the value of a unit coached by Ros­burg, the spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor. His boss, head coach Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 3

John Har­baugh, coached spe­cial teams for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles from 1998 to 2006.

“I think our guys care,” Har­baugh said of the key to block­ing so many kicks. “That’s the No. 1thing. It mat­ters to them. You have to give a lot of ef­fort on a lot of dif­fer­ent plays that you don’t block kicks. There was a play or two — and there have been plays all year — that we have been a fin­ger­nail away from block­ing a punt. [Wide re­ceiver] Ka­mar [Aiken] was a fin­ger­nail away from block­ing a punt and just did it per­fectly well, and the punt got off. You have to be will­ing to make a lot of sales calls be­fore you make a sale. Our guys have done a good job of that.”

Ur­ban’s block Sun­day — the sec­ond of his pro ca­reer — capped a se­quence in which three de­fen­sive line­men made cru­cial plays in five de­fen­sive snaps. De­fen­sive tackle Timmy Jerni­gan got a hand on a pass by Blake Bor­tles that rookie cor­ner­back Tavon Young in­ter­cepted to end a Jaguars drive in­side the Ravens 30-yard line. And Guy’s sack of Bor­tles forced My­ers to at­tempt a field goal from be­yond 50 yards. (My­ers is 4-of-7 from that dis­tance.)

CBS an­a­lyst Adam Archuleta, a for­mer St. Louis Rams safety, praised the team’s de­fen­sive line­men dur­ing Sun­day’s broad­cast.

“I think when you look at it, the de­fen­sive line, the de­fen­sive front on the last two se­ries for Bal­ti­more, when their backs were against the wall, come through with huge plays for this team,” he said.

The 6-4 Guy leads the cur­rent Ravens with four ca­reer blocks — two be­fore he joined the Ravens in 2014. In Week 2 at Cleve­land, he turned back Browns kicker Pa­trick Mur­ray’s ex­tra-point at­tempt, which led to a 63-yard re­turn for a 2-point con-

Block party

The Ravens can swat with the best of them. Since 2014, they have blocked 10 kicks, which leads the NFL in that cat­e­gory. Here is a list of those 10 blocked kicks. Date Player 9/ 7/ 14 Jeromy Miles 9/21/ 14 Asa Jack­son 12/ 14/ 14 Dar­ian Stew­art 10/26/ 15 Asa Jack­son 11/ 1/ 15 Asa Jack­son 11/ 15/ 15 Za’Dar­ius Smith 11/22/ 15 Lawrence Guy 11/30/ 15 Brent Ur­ban 9/ 18/ 16 Lawrence Guy 9/25/ 16 Brent Ur­ban Play Op­po­nent Blocked FG Ben­gals Blocked FG Browns Blocked punt Jaguars Blocked punt Car­di­nals Blocked XP Charg­ers Blocked FG Jaguars Blocked XP Rams Blocked FG Browns Blocked XP Browns Blocked FG Jaguars ver­sion by Young and sparked a big come­back in a 25-20 vic­tory.

As im­por­tant as size is, every player on the block team plays a role. The rush­ers on the edge try to use their speed to turn the corners. Those in the mid­dle at­tempt to bull over the block­ers and get their hands into the air.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, the play­ers do not have a stop­watch in their heads, Guy said.

“I know what steps I have to do,” he said, de­clin­ing to spec­ify how many steps he takes. “In my head, I’m like, ‘OK, now I’ve got to get my hand up.’ It’s not a clock, but how many steps I have to take to get my hands up.”

Mul­ti­ple fac­tors con­trib­ute to block­ing a kick. Not only does the block team have to nav­i­gate op­po­nents try­ing to stop it, the play­ers have to time it just right. And some­times they have to rely on the op­pos­ing kicker or punter to kick the ball low.

Five of the past six kicks blocked by the Ravens have been by de­fen­sive line­men, and Ros­burg said the play­ers in the trenches know what is ex­pected of them.

“There’s a lot of del­i­cacy, but Re­sult Loss, 23-16 Win, 23-21 Win, 20-12 Loss, 26-18 Win, 29-26 Loss, 22-20 Win, 16-13 Win, 33-27 Win, 25-20 Win, 19-17 there’s a lot of just brute force in­volved,” he said. “Like Lawrence’s block, for ex­am­ple. Pad level and ex­plo­sive power is what got him the block. He’s tall enough to get his hand in the right place and for­tu­nate enough that the ball was kicked there. That was more of a power move than it was del­i­cacy. On the out­side, get­ting off on the ball and hav­ing the right pad level and right steps, there’s more fi­nesse to that. But on the in­side, it is what it is. It’s power.”

The one thing mem­bers of the block team do not do, de­fen­sive back An­thony Levine Sr. said, is stand around and con­cede points or yards.

“It’s not like we go out there for spe­cial teams for five, 10 min­utes and walk our way through some­thing,” he said. “When we go out there for spe­cial teams, we go out there to make plays. Our mind­set is when we go out there, we’re try­ing to block it. We’re try­ing to make plays.”

By now, op­po­nents should rec­og­nize the Ravens’ knack for block­ing kicks. Pre­vent­ing them is a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/ BAL­TI­MORE SUN

The Ravens’ Brett Ur­ban (96), Lawrence Guy (93) and Matthew Judon (91) pre­pare to try to block a field-goal at­tempt by the Jaguars’ Ja­son My­ers on Sun­day. “Every time we line up, we ex­pect to block it,” Ur­ban said.

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