Ravens' punting unit breaks down at worst possible time
By By Aaron Wilson and The Baltimore Sun
Dec 09, 2012 | 9:00 PM
It was the anatomy of failure for the Ravens' punt team, a costly breakdown at the most inopportune time.
Two minutes into overtime of a 31-28 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field, the Ravens allowed a 64-yard punt return to Redskins cornerback Richard Crawford that directly led to a 34-yard game-winning field goal by kicker Kai Forbath.
"We just didn't cover the punt the way we were supposed to," running back Anthony Allen said. "You can't give up plays like that. We didn't stay in front of him and he made a play."
Covering a booming 56-yard punt from Sam Koch that pushed Crawford back to his own 12-yard line, Allen streaked downfield and was the first one with an opportunity to make the tackle. However, Allen fell to the ground while reacting to a Crawford fake and never even touched him.
Crawford accelerated away from Allen, then reversed field up the middle to elude chasing linebackers Josh Bynes and CourtneyUpshaw and cornerback Chykie Brown. He was finally corralled by a hustling Koch at the Ravens' 24-yard line.
On video of the play, long snapper Morgan Cox clearly gets blocked in the back by a Redskins player. However, no flag was thrown.
"I was running down there because I saw the alley he was coming," Cox said. "I saw a guy and turned my back and I went sliding forward. I could have been in better position. I got up looking for a yellow flag, but I didn't see any. I hate it. I wish I had gotten the call.
"We've done such an awesome job this year. This one hurts. To have that set up the winning play is pretty hard, but you move on."
Yanda, McClain injured
It was a painful loss for the Ravens beyond the frustration of squandering an eight-point lead in the final minutes of regulation.
Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda sprained his right ankle badly enough that he was on crutches after the game and fitted for a walking boot. Yanda was in no mood for interviews and requested that reporters not approach him.
Yanda was replaced in the lineup by veteran Bobbie Williams.
"It's a big loss," Williams said. "Marshal is one of the toughest guys I know. Whatever it is, I'll take it and go. That's what I'm here for."
Starting middle linebacker Jameel McClain left the game in the second half with a neck injury and was replaced by Bynes.
Although X-rays were negative, McClain was in serious pain and dealing with swelling. He wanted to return to the game, but wasn't allowed to by the team. He's scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday.
"That's good news," Harbaugh said of McClain's X-rays.
The Ravens are in a difficult situation at inside linebacker with Ray Lewis on injured reserve-designated to return with a surgically-repaired right triceps, starter Dannell Ellerbe out for the past two games with a right foot and ankle injury and now McClain injured.
Fullback Vonta Leach sustained a sprained ankle, but was walking around without issues following the game.
Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has a slight hip pointer. Rice rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and didn't appear to be in major discomfort afterward in the locker room.
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was scratched with a torn right biceps. Upshaw started in his place.
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable.
All week, Suggs had indicated he would be a game-time decision.
Struggling with overload blitzes and conventional pass rushes, the offensive line allowed two sacks and three quarterback hits on JoeFlacco.
Pressure from outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan led to an interception from Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher in the third quarter.
"I don't know what happened," said left offensive tackle Michael Oher, who had a rough game. "They brought guys off the edge. I guess they brought too many for us to block."
Kerrigan was completely unblocked, but Flacco took the blame for the turnover on a pass intended for Rice.
"I tried to get Ray something over there," Flacco said. And it was my fault."
Rookie right offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele downplayed the problems in pass protection.
"We had it protected fine, we had the communication fine," Osemele said. "Everybody protected well, everybody played their hearts out. We left it all out there."
In a rush
The Ravens pounded Redskins star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, sacking him three times with 1 1/2 apiece from defensive end Arthur Jones and outside linebacker Paul Kruger.
Griffin left the game in the fourth quarter with what was later diagnosed as a sprained right knee with no torn ligaments after being hit by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
"My good wasn't good enough," said Jones, who has 4 1/2 sacks for the season with at least one per game during the past three contests. "He's a hell of an athlete. I hit him one time and I thought he would be out and he battled back."
Kruger leads the Ravens with eight sacks, including 6 1/2 in the past five games.
The Ravens applied a lot of heat to Griffin, one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the game.
"I thought we rushed him well," Kruger said. "We hit him a bunch of times. It's tough to cut on that field. It feels like you're running around in sand. I think if we were on a better surface we would have hit him even more, but I thought we did a pretty good job."
Boldin scores twice
It was a sterling first half for veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, catching a pair of touchdown passes and eclipsing the 10,000 receiving yardage milestone.
After catching two passes for 50 yards by halftime, Boldin caught just one more pass the remainder of the game and finished with three catches for 78 yards.
"Nothing changed," Boldin said. "We just didn't execute like we were supposed to. We had the same exact drives in the second half. We just didn't finish them off."
Left offensive guard Jah Reid committed his third false start of the season since becoming a starter four games ago.
"It's like throwing up before the game," Reid said. "That's not an excuse. I need to get over that. That's terrible having a penalty like that for no reason."
End zone: The Ravens also deactivated tight end Ed Dickson (hyperextended right knee), cornerback Jimmy Smith (sports hernia surgery), offensive lineman Ramon Harewood, defensive lineman Bryan Hall and wide receiver Deonte Thompson.