Injuries sidelined two defensive starters, middle linebacker C.J. Mosley and nose tackle Michael Pierce, from the Ravens’ 27-14 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, but the decision to deactivate them was not an easy one, according to coach John Harbaugh.
“C.J. and Mike Pierce were really close,” he said Monday afternoon. “They just didn’t make it this week. Still, you have to say it’s day-to-day because you don’t know, but I’m really hopeful.”
Whether the duo can practice this week will likely determine their availability for Sunday night’s game at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A bone bruise in his left knee prevented Mosley, a three-time Pro Bowl player, from making his 65th start in 67 games, and rookie Kenny Young made a team-high 10 tackles in his place in the first start of his NFL career.
A bruised foot forced Pierce to miss a game for the first time in his NFL career, but he believes his absence will be temporary.
“I’m real close,” Pierce said after Sunday’s win. “I’m ready for Sunday night. I was real close. It was a game-time decision, and unfortunately, I didn’t come out today. But we got the ‘dub.’ So that was great. I’m getting healthy.”
Harbaugh revealed that rookie tight end Hayden Hurst could return to practice this week. The organization’s first of two first-round picks in April’s NFL draft has not practiced since Aug. 23 and underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
While saying there is “probably a better chance for” Hurst to return, Harbaugh sounded more guarded about defensive tackle Willie Henry, who also has not practiced since Aug. 23 because of hernia surgery.
“Willie’s going to see a doctor here this week,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a little different with Willie because it’s not an orthopedic deal. So the doctor, an internist, has to clear him on that kind of stuff.”
Missed call confirmed
Harbaugh said the team’s argument that Denver safety Justin Simmons should have been flagged for leaping over long snapper Morgan Cox before blocking kicker Justin Tucker’s 43-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter was confirmed. NFL rules prohibit players from running toward and jumping over the line of scrimmage to block a kick
“We did talk to the league,” Harbaugh said. “I can’t really speak for them, but I think what we all thought was confirmed. There was a moment of being stationary, and they weren’t stationary. But the way we look at it is, we have to improve there. That should be blocked. We should protect that A-gap better. We know that. It shouldn’t even be an issue.”
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. scooped up the loose ball and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown, but guard Billy Turner was flagged for an illegal block in the back that negated the score.
Offense’s historic run
The offense has been perfect in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns on all 12 trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line. The Ravens are the first team in NFL history to open a season going 12-for-12 in the red zone, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The encouraging aspect is that the unit has diversified its scoring. Six touchdowns have been scored on runs, and six via passes, and seven players have reached the end zone. That prevents opposing defenses from keying on one player, Harbaugh said.
“We do that with our own defense,” he said. “We say, ‘Hey, this is the must-stop guy in the red zone. This is the must-stop two or three guys.’ I don’t know who our must-stop guy would be? Certainly [wide receiver Michael] Crabtree. I guarantee that they’re talking about Crab in the red zone, and he hasn’t even scored that much down there yet. The fact that he’s still going to be a threat down there, teams know that. They’re going to have to cover him or if they don’t, he’s going to score. I think that’s a big part of it. Plus, I think [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] and [senior offensive assistant] Craig Ver Steeg and all of the coaches have done a great job scheming the red zone.”
The team signed free-agent center Hroniss Grasu, a third-round pick in the 2015 draft by the Chicago Bears. He spent three seasons with the team until his release Sept. 2. To make room for Grasu, the Ravens waived cornerback Robertson Daniel. … With 1½ sacks Sunday, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs moved to fifth in NFL history for the most sacks by a player with a single team with 128 career takedowns. But the 16-year veteran scolded himself for not recovering a fumble he caused when he sacked quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter. “I have to recover it,” said Suggs, who has recovered 13 fumbles but none since Dec. 28, 2014. “The standard is pretty high around here, so I have to do better and not let some guy take it from me under the pile. Don’t worry about it, though — I’m going to the weight room right now.” … With 59 receiving yards on two catches, Mark Andrews set the franchise record for most receiving yards in a game by a rookie tight end. But coach John Harbaugh revealed that the former Oklahoma standout has a bit to learn about NFL history. “Some of the older guys on the sideline were calling him ‘Bavaro,’ ” Harbaugh said, referring to Mark Bavaro, a two-time first-team All-Pro for the New York Giants in the 1980s. “And then he asked me, ‘What’s that mean?’ And I’m like, ‘You’ve never heard of Mark Bavaro?’ I told him to Google Mark Bavaro tonight. [Fellow rookie tight end] Hayden Hurst hadn’t heard of him either, so what can you say?” … Count Harbaugh as one interested viewer when the Steelers visit the Tamp Bay Buccaneers Monday night. “I’m going to go home and watch it,” he said. “Yeah, you get a lot out of it by watching it on TV. You get a feel for the game and the team. I mean, what am I going to get done if I’m not watching? I know they’re playing, and we’re playing them next week. If I’m not watching, that’d be crazy, right?”