Special Teams Units Don't Live Up To Name

Blocked Punt, Missed Field-goal Try, Penalties Help Chiefs Stay Close

September 14, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

Ravens punter Sam Koch was so focused on the ball that he never saw Jon McGraw coming, never saw where the ball went after it left his foot or who ended up with it in the end zone.

But Koch had a pretty good idea none of it was good.

"I was very surprised," Koch said after the Ravens escaped their misadventures on special teams Sunday with a 38-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. "I think I heard it hit something, and then I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where it went."

McGraw not only blocked Koch's second punt of the day early in the second quarter, but he also recovered the ball for a touchdown that gave Kansas City life. It took the Ravens most of the game to finally subdue the awakened Chiefs.

Coupled with a missed field-goal try of 41 yards by new kicker Steve Hauschka, penalties on two punt returns and a knee injury that sidelined Tavares Gooden on a kick return, the opening-day victory was fraught with special teams misplays.

It was left for Brendon Ayanbadejo, a Pro Bowl special teamer in his second season with the Ravens, to draw a grim bottom line.

"No, I didn't see any progress, honestly," he said. "We did what we're supposed to do on the coverage teams. The kickoff return was very mediocre, punt return was mediocre. So, if I had to grade us, I'd probably give us a 'D.'

"We're supposed to help the team win. We didn't do a single thing, other than cover kicks, to help the team win. We missed a field goal, we got a punt blocked, we gave up a touchdown. Those are things you absolutely cannot do. But we have to give credit to the Chiefs, really."

With the Ravens backed against their end zone in the second quarter, McGraw made his game-turning play. He said the play was designed by special teams coach Steve Hoffman for another player, but McGraw was the one who got free.

"We knew we had a good scheme and might be able to block one today," McGraw said.

Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg awaited visual evidence on tape but said he believed it was a communications gaffe that enabled McGraw to come up the middle untouched.

Ayanbadejo didn't have to see film. It was a missed communication, he said.

"One of the guys didn't block who they were supposed to block," he said. "Those things happen early in the season. Sometimes you can get away with it and not give up a block."

One of the few bright spots on special teams was the 44-yard field goal Hauschka kicked at the end of the Ravens' first drive. But when he came back to attempt a 41-yarder with under four minutes left in the first half, with the Ravens leading 10-7, his kick veered just to the left of the upright.

By virtually every account, it was M&T Bank Stadium's wind currents that carried the kick left. Hauschka, who won the right to succeed Matt Stover this summer, didn't use it as an excuse, however.

"The truth is, I just didn't hit the ball very confidently there," he said. "I just sort of tried to guide it in there. In a dome or a place without wind, I think it probably would have been fine. But you're not going to get away with it when it's windy. ... I'll be a little disappointed about that, but all I can do is try to make the next one in San Diego."

Said coach John Harbaugh: "I think he'll learn how to keep that ball tracking a little bit better in a crosswind like that. That's kind of a tough kick for a young kicker in this league."

Hauschka's kickoffs were pretty good: Of the seven he kicked, five went into the end zone and one was a touchback.

The Ravens gave the Chiefs 10 points on special teams and will have to dig in in for what promises to be a week dedicated to fine-tuning.

"We have a lot to work on," Rosburg said with a grin and a touch of gallows humor. "We're going to go back to work [today], correct our mistakes, build from it and try to play better next week."

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