Ravens take 'block that kick' seriously

When Brent Urban came crashing through the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line to block kicker Jason Myers' 52-yard field-goal attempt Sunday, it gave the Ravens hope.

Without Urban's block with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Justin Tucker likely doesn't get a chance to attempt a 54-yard game-winning kick to lift the Ravens to a 3-0 start.


The Ravens lead the league in blocked kicks with 10 since 2014 and it's not just luck. They work on this aspect of special teams over and over again.

"Every time we line up, we expect to block it," said Urban, the Ravens' tallest player at 6 feet 7. "We've had great results in the past and we get good knockback. All the praise goes to the guys beside me — [nose tackle] Brandon Williams, [defensive end] Lawrence Guy, coach Jerry Rosburg for teaching me the technique."


Blocking kicks — whether on field goals, extra points or punts — might be an overlooked aspect of the game elsewhere, but in Baltimore, it serves to re-emphasize the value of a unit coached by Rosburg, the special teams coordinator. His boss, head coach John Harbaugh, coached special teams for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1998 to 2006.

"I think our guys care," Harbaugh said of the key to blocking so many kicks. "That's the No. 1 thing. It matters to them. You have to give a lot of effort on a lot of different plays that you don't block kicks. There was a play or two – and there have been plays all year – that we have been a fingernail away from blocking a punt. [Wide receiver] Kamar [Aiken] was a fingernail away from blocking a punt and just did it perfectly well, and the punt got off. You have to be willing to make a lot of sales calls before you make a sale. Our guys have done a good job of that. Jerry does a good job of coaching it, without question. We have some talented players."

Urban's block Sunday — the second of his career — capped a sequence in which three defensive linemen made crucial plays in five defensive snaps. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan got a hand on a pass from Blake Bortles that rookie cornerback Tavon Young intercepted to end a Jaguars drive inside the Ravens' 30-yard line. And Guy's sack of Bortles forced Myers to attempt a field goal from beyond 50 yards. (Myers is now 4-for-7 from that distance.)

CBS analyst and former St. Louis Rams safety Adam Archuleta praised the team's defensive linemen during Sunday's broadcast.

"I think when you look at it, the defensive line, the defensive front on the last two series for Baltimore, when their backs were against the wall, come through with huge plays for this team," he said.

Among current Ravens, the 6-4 Guy leads the team with four career blocks — two of them coming before he joined the Ravens in 2014. In Week 2 at Cleveland, he turned back Browns kicker Patrick Murray's extra-point attempt, which led to a 63-yard return for a 2-point conversion by Young and sparked a big comeback in a 25-20 victory.

As important as size is , every player on the block team plays a role. The rushers on the edge try to use their speed to turn the corners. The players in the middle attempt to bull over the blockers and get their hands in the air.

Contrary to popular belief, the players do not have an internal stopwatch in their heads, Guy said.

"I know what steps I have to do," he said, declining to specify how many steps he takes. "In my head, I'm like, 'OK, now I've got to get my hand up.' It's not a clock, but how many steps I have to take to get my hands up."

Multiple factors contribute to blocking a kick. Not only does the block team have to navigate opponents trying to stop it, but members of the unit also have to time it just right. And sometimes they have to rely on the opposing kicker or punter to kick the ball low.

Five of the last six kicks blocked by the Ravens have been by defensive linemen, and Rosburg said the players in what is affectionately called "the trenches" know what is expected of them.

"There's a lot of delicacy, but there's a lot of just brute force involved," he said. "Like Lawrence's block, for example. Pad level and explosive power is what got him the block. He's tall enough to get his hand in the right place and fortunate enough that the ball was kicked there. That was more of a power move than it was delicacy. On the outside, getting off on the ball and having the right pad level and right steps, there's more finesse to that. But on the inside, it is what it is. It's power."


The one thing members of the block team do not do, defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. said, is stand around and concede points or yards.

"It's not like we go out there for special teams for five, 10 minutes and walk our way through something," he said. "When we go out there for special teams, we go out there to make plays. Our mindset is when we go out there, we're trying to block it. We're trying to make plays."

By now, opponents should recognize the Ravens' knack for blocking kicks. Preventing them is a different challenge.


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