Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson talks about getting tackled hard in the first quarter on the play he broke Michael Vick's QB rushing record.
Late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s 42-21 win over the New York Jets, the Ravens’ punt team jogged onto the field to shed the remaining minutes of another blowout victory.
Refs shortly thereafter flagged the unit for delay of game, an excusable transgression in the midst of a decisive victory.
Veteran linebacker Josh Bynes was then flagged for a false start, pushing the unit back five more yards.
When Sam Koch was finally able to get his punt off to returner Braxton Berrios without an infraction, the second-year wide receiver darted out of multiple tacklers and up the Jets’ sideline for a gain of 19 yards.
An additional holding penalty on safety Anthony Levine Sr. gave the Jets an extra 10 yards, placing the ball at midfield.
It was a fairly innocuous series of events, considering New York failed to score on the possession, but it was the culmination of a performance by the special teams unit that was rife with errors.
The unit struggled throughout the game, highlighted by a blocked punt returned for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. It was the first blocked punt allowed by the Ravens since Week 3 of the 2018 season.
“Our special teams coordinator [Bryant Boyer] put together a great game plan for this snapper [Morgan Cox],” said linebacker Tarrell Bashman, who got a hand on the punt.
“He [Boyer] knew we could get after him [Cox]. He [Boyer] aligned me on him [Cox] and let me rush him and beat him however I could. I was just able to run him over, and then dive for the block.”
The Jets averaged 16 yards per punt return and 25.6 yards per kick return, both numbers surpassing the Ravens’ averages this season.
Kicker Justin Tucker later attempted shorter kickoffs with more hang time to allow the coverage unit the ability to get downfield quicker, but the tactic didn’t produce tangible results.
Throughout the team’s 10-game winning streak, special teams has impressed, but after the team’s Week 9 win over the New England Patriots, coach John Harbaugh called the unit “inconsistent.”
Punt returner Cyrus Jones was released days later and the team signed De’Anthony Thomas, who has flashed at times, to be the primary return man.
As the team approaches the end of the regular season and gears for postseason play, the difference in making a deep run and bowing out early in the playoffs could come down to a few special teams plays.
“We just have to get better,” Harbaugh said after the game. "They were basically blocking us. They blocked our guys on the kickoff return. They did a great job with it.
“They ran a little pick-stunt on the blocked punt that we should have picked up no problem, and we didn’t. That’s an issue for us. We played really well on special teams last week. We played not well at all this week. So that’s an area of concern right now. I give them credit. They played really well, but we didn’t.”