Ravens notebook: Ravens cut back on penalties

September 13, 2010|By Edward Lee | Baltimore Sun reporter

East Rutherford, N.J. — Perhaps the Ravens really did listen when the coaching staff emphasized cutting down on penalties during the offseason.

After a dubious record-setting performance last season, the Ravens began 2010 on the right foot, collecting just four penalties through the first three quarters of their season opener against the New York Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium here Monday night.

The penalties cost the Ravens just 37 yards. By comparison, the Jets committed 13 penalties for 120 yards.

The showing was a far cry from last season when the team set a franchise record with 1,094 penalty yards and finished a game with fewer penalties than its opponent three times out of 18 regular-season and playoff contests.

"We like to say it's always been important, and it really always has been important," coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. "But after last year, there was something that we needed to do. I think I'm very pleased and impressed with the way we played technique throughout the preseason. We've had very few defensive pass interference or illegal contact penalties; we've had very few holding penalties, if any. We've had very few personal foul penalties of any kind. Â I'm just really proud of the way we're playing technique, and I fully expect that to continue throughout the regular season."

Meanwhile, New York struggled to avoid the addition of yellow to their green-and-white color scheme. Three of those gaffes occurred on the Ravens' final drive of the second quarter, and two of those gave the Ravens first downs.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was responsible for four penalties -- pass interference, defensive holding and offsides -- for a combined 48 yards.

Offensive line switch

As anticipated, the Ravens moved Marshal Yanda from right guard to right tackle and inserted Chris Chester at right guard.

The team may have decided that Oniel Cousins had not recovered quickly enough from the concussion that he suffered Aug. 18 and elected to go with Yanda instead.

Yanda allowed defensive end Shaun Ellis to get past him, sack, and strip quarterback Joe Flacco of the ball on the Ravens' opening possession, but he seemed to settle down after that.

Chester was flagged once for holding, but otherwise had a decent outing.

No man in the middle

The Ravens' worries about Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins were well-founded.

The 6-foot-4, 360-pound Jenkins disrupted the Ravens rushing attack and tied up blockers in the passing game.

But Jenkins injured his left knee on the Ravens' sixth offensive play of the contest in the first quarter and did not return. Prior to his departure, the Ravens had compiled just three yards.

Zbikowski takes over on punt returns

Tom Zbikowski replaced Chris Carr as the team's primary punt returner.

Although Carr had averaged 8.2 yards on punt returns last season, Zbikowski fielded all three of the Ravens' returns through the first three quarters.

He returned the first punt 10 yards and fair-caught the second. But he lost six yards on his third return when he tried to outrun the coverage from one sideline to the other and was tackled at the Ravens' 1.

Zbikowski also returned a kickoff 15 yards in the third quarter.

McGahee's rough start smooths out

Compared to last year's start, the beginning of the 2010 season had a few more hiccups for Willis McGahee.

After scoring one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown in a 38-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the running back carried the ball five times for a combined loss of two yards and ended a promising drive on New York's 20-yard line when former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott stripped him of the football.

But McGahee made amends, powering his way into the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Ravens a 7-6 lead with six seconds left in the second quarter.

End zone

Dawan Landry's recovery of running back Shonn Greene's fumble in the second quarter was the Ravens strong safety's first of his NFL career. Â Six-foot-4, 350-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata lined up as a tackle in the Ravens' goal-line package. Â The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks Lardarius Webb ( knee surgery) and Bryan McCann, defensive tackles Terrence Cody (arthroscopic left knee surgery) and Arthur Jones, offensive tackle Jared Gaither (thoracic disk in back), wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (broken left foot), defensive end Paul Kruger (left shoulder) and linebacker Jason Phillips. Â About 70 minutes before the game, rain began to fall, and players and fans were asked to move indoors because of lightning. Â Linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Haruki Nakamura and Flacco represented the Ravens for the pre-game coin toss. The Jets were represented by former Ravens Jim Leonhard and Scott, among others.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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