By Edward Lee
7:00 AM EST, December 31, 2011
Albert McClellan rolled his eyes and chuckled when posed with the inevitable question: what has happened with the Ravens special teams?
The second-year linebacker is naturally tired of answering questions about that subject, but the fact that the Ravens have surrendered three returns for touchdowns this season continues to persist.
But before panic sets in, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, the long-time special teams ace, said the unit has fixed the gaffes caused by the coverage teams.
“It’s something we addressed,” he said confidently. “It’s rare that I’ve been on teams that give up one, let alone give up three. Coach [John] Harbaugh is a special teams coach and Coach [Jerry] Rosburg is one of the best special teams coaches in the league. So I know it really leaves a bad taste in their mouths, and it leaves a bad taste in the players’ mouths as well. So it’s something we’re going to address, but we’ve always bounced back really well. We went on some good runs after we hit that adversity on special teams. So we’re just looking to go on another run. We’ve got four games left on our season. So we’re looking to go on a run and bounce back from that.”
The three returns for scores tie a franchise low set in 1998 and matched again in 2002. That’s a mark the current squad isn’t hoping to break Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Well, you never want to give up one touchdown, let alone the problems that we’ve had,” said Rosburg, the team’s special teams coordinator since 2008. “The emphasis has always been, in our program, that we want to make sure we take care of the ball, we want to have good protection, and we want to cover kicks. That’s our first thing. That’s the way we start our special teams meetings [went] the very first day. The fact that we haven’t taken care of the ball and we haven’t covered kicks well enough has been a factor all season long. We continue to address those issues.”
The unit gets another test in the Bengals’ Brandon Tate, who has already set a franchise record with 498 punt return yards, returned a punt for a touchdown, and registered five returns of at least 20 yards, which is tied for 10th in the NFL.
“He’s a good returner,” McClellan said. “He’s fast. They wouldn’t have him back there if he wasn’t fast. He pretty much knows what to do with the ball when he gets his lane.”
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