That changed Sunday night when New York Jets running back Joe McKnight returned a kickoff 107 yards just 3 minutes, 17 seconds into the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium.
The play was especially deflating because it occurred after the Ravens had taken a 7-0 lead when free safety Ed Reed sacked and stripped quarterback Mark Sanchez and inside linebacker Jameel McClain returned the fumble six yards for the touchdown.
New York had entered the contest ranked 11th in the NFL with a 24.4-yard average on kick returns, and the touchdown was the franchise's 15th since 2001, which topped the league.
On Thursday, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg expressed his respect for Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.
"It seems when you turn their tape on every year, whether you're playing them or not, you watch the Jets have big returns and big plays," Rosburg said. "Mike uses those players very well. You can see that he has a mind that goes after a particular coverage, he'll attack it and he'll look for weak spots like we all do. He has great players to attack. He does a very good job in that regard."
Ravens short-handed at cornerback
Reed lined up as the fifth defensive back in the defense's nickel package.
The secondary was forced to use the seven-time Pro Bowler there after the team deactivated cornerback Chris Carr. Carr's ailing left hamstring flared up again, sidelining him for Friday's practice after he had fully participated in Wednesday's and Thursday's sessions.
His absence — along with that of rookie Jimmy Smith (high left ankle sprain) and Domonique Foxworth (right knee, injured reserve) left the defense with just four healthy cornerbacks in starters Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb and reserves Danny Gorrer and rookie Chykie Brown.
The unit could not employ Haruki Nakamura as the nickel back as the safety was sidelined by a posterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee.
Kruger, Mason mix it up
Paul Kruger hasn't lit up the stat sheet in his three years with the Ravens, but the outside linebacker may have made an indelible impression when he exchanged a few pleasantries with New York Jets wide receiver Derrick Mason in the third quarter.
On third down-and-8 from the Jets' 36-yard line, Mason, a former Raven, caught a pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez, but was wrestled to the turf by Kruger one yard short of a first down.
Afterward, Kruger and Mason traded some shoves, and other players joined in the fray before cooler heads prevailed. Kruger had a decent outing in his limited time, recovering a fumble and tipping away a pass on third down.
Kindle gets active
Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle was active for the first time this season.
Kindle played primarily on special teams, but got no reps on defense in the first half.
Kindle missed last season after fracturing his skull while falling down stairs at a friend's house just before training camp.
Gurode starts for Grubbs
Andre Gurode, the five-time Pro Bowl center who started at left guard in last Sunday's 37-7 shellacking of the St. Louis Rams, made his second consecutive start there.
Gurode was playing for Ben Grubbs, who missed his third consecutive game due to strained ligaments in his toe. Grubbs practiced on a limited basis Thursday, but did not participate in Friday's session.
Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, who caught five passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL debut against the Rams, started against New York. He was filling in for Lee Evans, who sat out his second straight contest because of a left ankle injury. The Ravens also scratched safety Haruki Nakamura (right posterior cruciate ligament), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) and wide receiver David Reed (left shoulder strain). … The Jets played without three-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold. Mangold, who has been hobbled by a high right ankle sprain, will be replaced by rookie Colin Baxter. New York also deactivated quarterback Kevin O'Connell, wide receiver Logan Payne, safety Emanuel Cook, running back Bilal Powell, fullback Josh Baker and defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis. … Free safety Ed Reed, right guard Marshal Yanda and punter Sam Koch represented the Ravens for the coin toss. Three former Ravens in linebacker Bart Scott, wide receiver Derrick Mason and safety Jim Leonhard represented the Jets.