It’s time for that special time of the week. As you probably already saw, I already spent time taking a look at Martavis Bryant’s kick returns from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ last game, so you’ll understand why that is glossed over here.
As usual, Roosevelt Nix is the tone-setter, lighting up Chris Moore on the opening kickoff and bringing him down inside the 20. He has a good sense of angles and when to break inside of a gap in the ranks.
Thanks to some extended drives, there really wasn’t another special teams play worth noting for over 10 minutes. But the Ravens did punt to end their second drive, from the Steelers’ 41. Brian Allen continues to be the team’s top jammer, replacing Coty Sensabaugh in that role even before he was injured. The jammers and their interior helpers actually cut down Baltimore’s jammers on the punt, but interior pressure induced a fair catch at the 10 on a 31-yard punt. Hard to get running room in such tight space.
Arthur Moats played in Tyler Matakevich’s vacated spot on that unit, by the way, while Sean Spence took his role on kick coverage.
BREAKING: Jesse James actually got a hand on an edge rusher that slowed him down on the extra point unit.
Darrius Heyward-Bey’s role is really underrated in this aspect of the game. Even on kick coverage, his responsibility of contain was key in the second kick return being limited to 19 yards. If you’re going to kick short of the end zone, but better hold them inside the 25.
Cameron Sutton seems also to have taken over Sensabaugh’s role on the field goal blocking unit as the edge opposite Artie Burns.
On his first kick return, Bryant’s fatal mistake was hesitation. He paused and surveyed the field before even moving. No wonder he got to the 12.
James Conner was in Matakevich’s spot instead of Spence on the next kickoff. I think it was Nix, or maybe L.J. Fort, who drew a holding call that had the Ravens start on their own 15.
Chris Boswell’s composure is his greatest strength. He didn’t flinch with a rusher in his face, who was offsides, on his field goal at the end of the first half.
Spence again was in the Matakevich spot on the next kickoff, a squib kick with one second left in the half.
The Steelers didn’t punt until the second half. Allen and Heyward-Bey were the gunners, as has become the standard. Allen was virtually unimpeded inducing a fair catch on a 45-yard punt. The gunner for some reason tried to pull a speed turn and just got burned. It doesn’t really work if the other guy doesn’t need to actually go and catch something.
Sensabaugh did take his spot back from Sutton on the field goal blocking unit in the second half.
I had more on the Bryant near safety return, but suffice it to say that was all on him. There’s no reason he couldn’t have fielded the ball. Probably the main reason he’s being taken off kick returns this week.
The Ravens put two jammers on Allen the second time around and it worked well, but Jordan Berry’s corner kick was perfectly placed and pull the returner out of bounds as he fielded the kick 48 yards down the field.
Allen was vice jammed again on the third punt, and again it was effective. He was run out of bounds, but when he tried to get back inbounds, he was knocked to the ground. He needs to have more success against doubles if he wants to be a fixture in this role.
Fortunately for the punt team, Heyward-Bey came screaming down the field from the opposite side to induce a fair catch on another 48-yard punt. That’s pure speed.
And now Sutton is back on the field goal blocking unit, because. And Conner back on the kick coverage unit. Seems clear they’re exploring their options until somebody claims the job.
The Steelers scored a touchdown and missed a two-point conversion that tied the game. Then they allowed a 40-yard kick return that put the Ravens on the 44 on a drive that they scored a touchdown. Ugly.
So what happened? Fitzgerald Toussaint tried to squeeze through a wedge and got sandwiched, losing contain of the center of the field. The returner then slipped under Sensabaugh being picked up by a blocker. He is supposed to be the edge on the unit. Toussaint had to recover and force the returner out of bounds.
On the final kick return of the game, they no longer lined Bryant up between the hash marks, instead putting him halfway between the hash marks and the numbers, with Toussaint outside the numbers on the other side. The Ravens kicked to Toussaint…and he had their best return on the night, out to the 27. How? Decisiveness and power.
Seriously, Spence and Conner keep flipping.
On the final punt of the game, Allen and Cameron Sutton were used as vice jammers opposite Wilcox. They did a good job, Sutton in particular showing aggressiveness.
For the second time in the game, the edge on the Ravens’ field goal blocking unit swatted James’ hand down as he tried to get a punch. This time he came within a foot of a block. This was the game-winning field goal. I hate to keep picking on James for this, but it keeps happening.
BREAKING: Conner was on two kick coverage snaps in a row.
I completely forgot to look for and note this earlier, but Sutton was a one-for-one replacement for J.J. Wilcox on the punt coverage unit typically being used as a trail helper, but sometimes asked to vice jam. Moats was also used on the kick return unit, presumably taking Wilcox’s seat, though not directly his role.
This was probably the longest special teams report of the season, and that was while glossing over the kick returns. I really hope you guys are into special teams this week.