Orr: Spe­cial teams ‘real dis­ap­point­ing’

Ravens have given up more re­turn yards in five games than over all of last sea­son

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

In the past, the Ravens have used spe­cial teams to flip out­comes of games in their fa­vor. On Sun­day, the unit had the op­po­site ef­fect.

From sur­ren­der­ing an 85-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down in the first quar­ter to fail­ing badly on a fake-field-goal at­tempt in the sec­ond quar­ter to al­low­ing punts to fall in­side the 10-yard line, spe­cial teams were any­thing but spe­cial in the Ravens’ 16-10 loss to the Washington Red­skins.

“It’s real dis­ap­point­ing,” in­side line­backer Zachary Orr, typ­i­cally a spe­cial teams stand­out, said of the unit’s trou­bles Sun­day. “It’s some­thing we’re not ac­cus­tomed to at all.”

The gaffes on spe­cial teams be­gan in the first quar­ter, when Jami­son Crow­der took Sam Koch’s punt 85 yards to tie the score at 7 with 4:52 left in the quar­ter. The punt re­turn for a score was Washington’s first since 2008 and marked the sec­ond-long­est punt re­turn for a touch­down by a Ravens op­po­nent — just 1 yard short of the Cincin­nati Ben­gals’ Craig Yeast’s re­turn Nov. 21, 1999.

Crow­der slipped a tackle at­tempt by Orr and ran past Koch to the end zone. Op­po­nents have gained 478 re­turn yards against the Ravens; they sur­ren­dered 405 yards in 16 games last sea­son.

“That was def­i­nitely dis­ap­point­ing,” said tight end Dar­ren Waller, who was part of the cov­er­age team on Crow­der’s touch­down. “I feel like af­ter that, the spe­cial teams lead­ers on the side­lines stepped it up, and af­ter that, our punt cov­er­age was pretty solid from there on. But we just can’t al­low that to hap­pen.”

Coach John Har­baugh pointed to that play as a turn­ing point in the game.

“I told the team in there, it starts with that,” he said. “We have to get that fixed. Now we have spe­cial teams play­ers who are start­ing on de­fense, and the young guys aren’t go­ing to step up and play spe­cial teams, I guess. That has to change. We’re not hav­ing it. That’s what gave them the spark to get back in the game, in my mind. We let them back in the game with a punt re­turn for a touch­down. It’s not what we do. That’s not win­ning foot­ball.” Jami­son Crow­der runs away from Ravens spe­cial teams play­ers for an 85-yard punt re­turn touch­down in the first quar­ter, the Red­skins’ first score. “We let them back in the game” with that play, Ravens coach John Har­baugh said. “That’s not win­ning foot­ball.”

One quar­ter later, the team lined up for a 34-yard field-goal at­tempt. But kicker Justin Tucker, bizarrely lin­ing up to take a left-footed kick, took a di­rect snap and rolled to his right. His pass to tight end Crock­ett Gill­more hit strong safety Duke Ihenacho in the hel­met and bounced to the grass.

Tucker, who said the last time he threw a pass was at West­lake High in Austin, Texas, said it felt good when he let the ball go.

“I’d like to think I still have some foot­ball skills out­side of just be­ing able to kick the ball,” he said. “I trust my abil­ity to throw the ball, catch the ball, run it, tackle some­body if I need to, and that’s what we had pre­scribed to­day. Would I like to have that one back? Sure, but we don’t get that lux­ury. We move on.

Har­baugh de­fended his de­ci­sion to go for it.

“I’m not sec­ond-guess­ing it — you can sec­ond-guess it — but I’m not sec­ondguess­ing it,” he said. “I’ve stood up here for nine years and said we’re go­ing to be ag­gres­sive. Peo­ple are go­ing to have to de­fend fakes, they’re go­ing to have to de­fend us go­ing for it on fourth down. That’s just the way we’re go­ing to con­tinue to play, be­cause that’s what we be­lieve in. We be­lieve in giv­ing our play­ers a chance to make plays, and we’re go­ing to keep do­ing it. We’re not apol­o­giz­ing for that.”

Just about ev­ery phase of spe­cial teams went wrong for the Ravens. They also strug­gled re­turn­ing punts.

In the fourth quar­ter, re­turn spe­cial­ist Devin Hester Sr. let a punt by Tress Way roll out of bounds at the Ravens 5-yard line, then let an­other punt get downed at the 8. Hester fi­nally re­turned a punt 16 yards to set up the of­fense at the 44, but the play was negated by an il­le­gal-block penalty on An­thony Levine Sr.

“We’ve got to play bet­ter,” Hester said. “They didn’t do any­thing spe­cial. It’s us. We’ve just got to play bet­ter.”

In a 28-27 loss to the Oak­land Raiders last week, the Ravens gave up a 47-yard punt re­turn to Jalen Richard that Oak­land turned into a touch­down, and Hester lost a fum­ble on a kick­off that he re­cov­ered. Orr said the spe­cial teams strug­gles in back-to-back games is some­thing that must be ad­dressed be­fore Sun­day’s road game against the New York Gi­ants.

“It’s def­i­nitely con­cern­ing be­cause we felt like this week in prac­tice, we had a great week,” he said. “We were cor­rect­ing some of our mis­takes. All it takes is one bad play to wreck a game, and for that to hap­pen on the spe­cial teams unit, it’s some­thing we worked real hard on, es­pe­cially with what hap­pened to us last week.” who joined starter Jimmy Smith in cov­er­ing Red­skins re­ceivers on the out­side.

“All week, Coach told me that I was the next manup, so I was ready,” said Young, the first of the club’s five picks in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. “Once my mo­ment came, I just went out there and played with con­fi­dence. I just did what I know.”

Har­baugh took note of Young’s per­for­mance, which in­cluded three tack­les. “Tavon has played well,” Har­baugh said. “I think Tavon’s had a re­ally good sea­son as a rookie. He’s played five good games for us, whether we put him in­side or in the slot.” Lewis gets start at left tackle: Rookie Alex Lewis made his first start at left tackle since grad­u­at­ing from Ne­braska for the in­jured Ron­nie Stan­ley (foot), and ac­quit­ted him­self well.

Also a fourth-round pick in the draft, Lewis did not al­low a sack or com­mit a penalty Sun­day, but said there was room for im­prove­ment.

“It’s like be­ing on a bike again, but I’ve got to be con­sis­tent,” said Lewis, who started the first three games at left guard. “I’ve got to be more con­sis­tent out on the edge there, and we’ve got to keep Joe up­right.”

John Urschel, who started at left guard, sur­ren­dered a sack to Washington de­fen­sive end Ziggy Hood in the sec­ond quar­ter but was not flagged for a penalty. End zone: Red­skins in­side line­backer Ter­ence Garvin, a Bal­ti­more na­tive who played at Loy­ola Blake­field, made two tack­les and shared a sack of Flacco in the third quar­ter with out­side line­backer Trent Mur­phy. … In ad­di­tion to Stan­ley and Wright, the Ravens de­ac­ti­vated rookie in­side line­backer Ka­malei Cor­rea, rookie de­fen­sive tackle Wil­lie Henry, safety Mar­que­ston Huff, rookie out­side line­backer Matthew Judon and rookie wide re­ceiver Chris Moore. It marked the first time Cor­rea and Moore have been healthy scratches in their ca­reers. … Run­ning back Justin Forsett, who was re­leased by the Ravens on Tues­day, will meet and work out with the Detroit Lions to­day. Forsett, who av­er­aged 3.2 yards per carry while start­ing in the first three games, could for­tify a back­field that lost Ameer Ab­dul­lah (foot) for an ex­tended time, and has been us­ing Theo Rid­dick. … Washington de­ac­ti­vated cor­ner­backs Bashaud Bree­land (strained ten­don in an­kle) and Dashaun Phillips (ham­string), rookie in­side line­backer Su’a Cravens ( con­cus­sion), rookie wide re­ceiver Josh Doct­son (Achilles ten­don), rookie de­fen­sive end An­thony Lanier, right tackle Vin­ston Painter and rookie quar­ter­back Nate Sud­feld. … Bal­ti­more na­tive and 23-time Olympic gold medal swim­mer Michael Phelps led the of­fense out of the tun­nel be­fore the game. For­mer Ravens in­side line­backer Ray Lewis and wide re­ceiver Der­rick Ma­son also at­tended the game. … De­fen­sive end Lawrence Guy, full­back Kyle Juszczyk and tight end Den­nis Pitta rep­re­sented the Ravens for the coin toss.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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