Ravens special teams unit makes up for mistakes with key plays down the stretch

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker talks about kick at the end of the first half that scored on the second atttempt as well as the Ravens' tendency to play close games. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — As Jason Myers was lining up for a 52-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter that could have given the Jacksonville Jaguars a 4-point lead, Ravens special teams standout Anthony Levine Sr. knew what was about to happen, he says.

Levine believes the Jaguars did, too.


"Every time we go out there on a field-goal block, we think we're about to block one, and even they thought we were about to block one," Levine said following the Ravens' 19-17 victory over the Jaguars at EverBank Field. "They were like, 'Just so you all know, you ain't blocking this, you ain't blocking this.' They lined up and they were saying it."

Sure enough, Brent Urban blocked one, and for the second straight week, a blocked kick proved to be one of the key plays in a Ravens' victory. Urban's second career block, and Justin Tucker's 54-yard field goal, salvaged an uneven day for the team's normally consistent special teams group.


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"There's definitely butterflies, but [long snapper Morgan Cox] dropped some wisdom on me right before we went out on the field," said Tucker who has 12 career game-winning field goals with eight of them coming on the road. "It was a line from 'Sandlot': "Heroes will be remembered. Legends never die." Yeah, it might be little bit dramatic, you know, it's a football game, but that's how we feel."

For three-plus quarters, it appeared that the Ravens' special teams were going to be one of the reasons the visitors were going to come up short. The unit completed three penalties, including flags on Cox on back-to-back plays in punt coverage. The first, a holding call, prevented the Jaguars from starting their first possession inside their own 5.

In the second quarter, the Ravens' punt coverage team allowed a 42-yard return by Rashad Greene that set up Jacksonville's first score, a Blake Bortles 3-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson.

"That's something we never want to do," Levine said of the long return. "We never want to give that up."

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Return man Devin Hester Sr. then committed the biggest gaffe of all. Clinging to a 16-14 lead with more than nine minutes to play, Hester tried to corral a Brad Nortman punt as gunner Denard Robinson rushed toward him. Hester dropped the ball, which bounced right to Robinson, who covered it on the Ravens' 39-yard lin. Four players later, Myers gave the home team a 17-16 lead with a 49-yard field goal.

"It was a mistake on my part," said Hester who was signed just before Week 1 to stabilize the Ravens' return game. "I took my eye off the ball. That's the NFL. Things happen. The bigger thing is our defense found a way to pull me out of it. We got a win and that's the most important thing right now."

Hester admitted it's much easier to learn from a mistake after a victory. That's why when Tucker trotted out to the field to attempt the go-ahead 54-yard attempt, Hester said to nobody in particular, "Please make this field goal."

Tucker, as he usually does, delivered. He's 9-of-9 on field-goal attempts this season and he's made all three from 50 yards and beyond. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he was so confident in Tucker that as soon as the team crossed midfield on the game's decisive drive, he was already thinking about setting Tucker up for the game-winner.

"Everybody knows you have to have a good, solid kicker to win games, but he's been lights out," right guard Marshal Yanda said. "We really appreciate him. He's a rare talent, that's for sure."

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. admitted he was a bit nervous because Tucker came up well short on a 57-yard attempt just before halftime (a Jaguars penalty nullified the miss, and Tucker made his next try). However, Tucker pointed out that the short attempt came with the offense's ball, rather than the designated kicking ball. The Ravens had no timeouts so they didn't have the time to change out the balls for the kick.

"That does make a significant difference," Tucker said. "I went out there for a 57-yarder right before the half knowing I'm about to try to kick a chocolate bar."

He left little doubt on the game-winning 54-yarder.


The kick wouldn't have happened if not for the 6-foot-7 Urban getting his hand up to push aside the Myers' kick. The block came a week after Lawrence Guy stuffed a Cleveland Browns' extra-point attempt and rookie cornerback Tavon Young returned it 63 yards for two points. After the game, several Ravens credited the play as the reason they were able to dig out of a 20-point hole and beat the Browns.

The Ravens now have 10 blocked kicks since 2014, the most in the NFL in that time.

"I can't say enough about how big these blocked field goals are happening," Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We would like to not have to do that, but it's good to know that when the time comes, you have a 6-foot-12 Brent Urban that can go in there and do it."


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