Minus couple of miscues, Ravens special teams play well

September 19, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Cincinnati — — One brief moment marred what otherwise was turning out to be a solid day for the Ravens special teams units.

Surrendering a 60-yard kickoff return to Bernard Scott gave the Cincinnati Bengals an opportunity to retake the lead and eventually close out a 15-10 victory over the Ravens here at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday afternoon.

"We felt we should have won this game, but things happen," said linebacker Prescott Burgess, who was one of the players on that pivotal kickoff coverage. "That's what practice and film is for. We have to come out and make sure that these mistakes don't happen again next week when we play the [ Cleveland] Browns."

After Billy Cundiff had given the Ravens a 10-9 lead with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter, lder), he lanched the ensuing kickoff 71 yards down the field.

But Scott followed a running lane opened by his blockers through the middle of the field until he was hauled down by Josh Wilson at the Ravens' 41-yard line.

Four plays and 21 yards later, Mike Nugent converted his fourth field goal of the day to give Cincinnati a 12-10 lead with 4:34 left in the contest.

On the next Ravens offensive possession, quarterback Joe Flacco's pass was tipped and linebacker Brandon Johnson collected the interception, setting up Nugent's fifth field goal. The ensuing Ravens series ended with another Flacco interception, his fourth of the game.

Several Ravens players said they didn't think the Bengals did anything out-of-the-ordinary on Scott's kick return.

"I can't tell you," Wilson said. "Obviously, they did something special because he got down the field. … I had to make the tackle. He came through there and that's what [my] job is, to make the tackle."

Coach John Harbaugh said he would need to review the game film, but did concede that the coverage unit gave Scott too much room.

"Obviously, we didn't do a good job of squeezing and getting in front of him," he said. "I thought it looked like we were there, but we didn't squeeze him and make a play. We need to get there quicker. We need to get there fast and get in front of a faster target."

There were a few other hiccups on special teams. Jalen Parmele averaged 30.7 yards on three kick returns, but he coughed up the football near the end of the third quarter when Cincinnati linebacker Dan Skuta struck the ball and knocked it out of his hands.

Although teammate Dennis Pitta recovered the fumble at the Ravens' 25, Parmele chastised himself for the miscue.

"That was me," he said. "I was trying to make a play too much. I made a cut and right when I did that, I got smacked right in the [football]. It was a good hit, and I should've held up in there instead of trying to make too much. That's something I've got to learn from."

Tom Zbikowski averaged 6.2 yards on five punts, which was exponentially better than the 1.3-yard average he finished with on four punts in the team's season opener against the New York Jets a week ago.

Perhaps the only criticism involved a return late in the second quarter when he caught the ball over his right shoulder like a center fielder chasing a fly ball and then running horizontally toward the right sideline. Zbikowski was dropped for a 4-yard loss at the Ravens' 28, but he insisted that the outcome could have been worse if he hadn't fielded the punt.

"If you let that ball go, it's going to kill us in terms of field position," he said. "I just tried to get people moving and get whatever I could get out of it."

Special teams has been a point of emphasis under Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Jerry Rosburg, the current special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Ravens.

Burgess said he anticipated that elevating the unit's level of play would continue to be stressed during the upcoming week.

"We've just got to come together and understand what we've got to do and get the job done," he said. "… We've got to come in tomorrow and get better from what just happened. We've got to come and learn from it and make sure it doesn't happen again."


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