Strug­gling spe­cial teams un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of Ravens

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL & NATIONAL SPORTS - By SEAN GROGAN

OWINGS MILLS

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

— Among a hand­ful of rea­sons that the Ravens have lost con­sec­u­tive games has been a strug­gling spe­cial teams unit. It’s a prob­lem Bal­ti­more isn’t ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing. Mo­men­tum swung in Sun­day’s 16-10 loss when the Ravens al­lowed an 85-yard punt re­turn touch­down to Wash­ing­ton’s re­turn man Jami­son Crow­der.

The run back ties the longest given up by any NFL team this sea­son and was one yard shy of ty­ing a Ravens’ fran­chise record.

It was also the first touch­down Bal­ti­more’s punt team has sur­ren­dered in five years.

“The last time we gave up a score was 2011. Since that time, we’ve gone 70-odd games with zero points [al­lowed]. In the same time span, we’ve scored 62 points,” spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Jerry Ros­burg said Thurs­day. “That’s a high stan­dard. We’re not used to this hap­pen­ing to us, and our play­ers know that. It’s my job to get us back up to that stan­dard.”

Ros­burg is her­alded as one of the best spe­cial teams coaches in the league, but his unit is un­ques­tion­ably strug­gling. The Ravens al­lowed a long punt re­turn that helped set up an Oak­land Raiders touch­down the pre­vi­ous week.

Bal­ti­more has sur­ren­dered the most punt re­turn yards in the NFL (264). Op­po­nents are av­er­ag­ing 18.5 yards per re­turn, the fourth-worst av­er­age in the league.

“Eval­u­at­ing the tape – both on the kick­off cov­er­age and our punt cov­er­age – it’s a mat­ter of fun­da­men­tal foot­ball. We broke down in a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ar­eas in each phase, and it hurt us,” Ros­burg said. “We’ve had a re­peat of er­rors that have hurt us. We need to fix it.”

The Ravens ad­dressed a glar­ing need at kick re­turner by sign­ing Devin Hester af­ter train­ing camp. Hester, 33, holds the NFL ca­reer records for re­turn touch­downs (20) and punt re­turn touch­downs (14), but has been off to a slow start in Bal­ti­more.

He muffed a punt against the Jack­sonville Jaguars and lost a fum­ble against the Raiders the fol­low­ing week. Hester twice al­lowed punts to roll in­side of the Ravens 10-yard in the fourth quar­ter against Wash­ing­ton.

Hester’s best re­turn of the game on Sun­day was negated by an il­le­gal block in the back.

Ros­burg has a list of con­cerns re­gard­ing his units, but the best re­turn man in NFL his­tory isn’t among them.

“I don’t see it, I don’t see a slump,” he said. “I don’t see any con­fi­dence lack­ing. He’s a great re­turner and he’s go­ing to get it go­ing.”

Fol­low Sean Grogan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GROGAN

Ravens spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Jerry Ros­burg called his unit’s strug­gles “a mat­ter of fun­da­men­tal foot­ball” on Thurs­day.

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