When Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown Sunday, it marked the second special teams touchdown that the Ravens’ coverage units have allowed this season.
The two returns were different from a schematic standpoint; the obvious distinction is that Peterson’s touchdown came on a punt, while Jets running back Joe McKnight took a kickoff back 102 yards for a touchdown back in Week 4.
There are other more technical differences between the two, ones that the Ravens will be focused on improving this week. However, according to special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, the bottom line is that the Ravens simply cannot be allowing big plays in the return game.
“When you view it, you’re giving up two touchdowns (and) that’s never acceptable,” Rosburg said today. “It’s certainly not acceptable now, nor will it be acceptable. We’re aware of those issues, and we’re dealing with them.”
So what happened Sunday? What caused the Ravens to allow Peterson to dance 82 yards down the field and give the Cardinals a big first-half score?
According to safety Haruki Nakamura, the issues were lack of discipline and missed tackles. Nakamura said the Ravens have to do a better job of staying in their gaps and not getting too antsy when they feel like they can jump out and make a big hit. The four-year veteran also blamed himself for missing a tackle in the open field which allowed Peterson to have a free path at the end zone.
Rosburg said he appreciated that his players were able to understand the issues at play on that return, and said he has faith those issues will be remedied going forward.
“There’s a lot of things that go into punt coverage, and I think that particular play is a really good example of team punt coverage,” Rosburg said. “A week ago, the same group of guys, generally speaking, were one of the top punt coverage units in the league. I think we were in the top five in the two most important categories. And then one play later, disaster. There were a number of factors that went into that play, and I really do appreciate the guys that stepped forward and were accountable and took responsibility, but it wasn’t just them. It was a complete punt team breakdown, including the coach.
“Credit Arizona, they have a dynamic, explosive returner and they picked him in the first round for a reason. We respected him, we understood him. We knew he was an explosive player and we still weren’t able to execute that particular play. When you’re dealing with an explosive player like that and you make mistakes, it’s a bad day. And we did that. Going forward, we’re dealing with the issues that we had. We practiced really well yesterday. I’m confident that our guys are going to play better this week, because we have a similar challenge (in Steelers returner Antonio Brown); a different type of player, but a similar challenge. That’s the way it is in the NFL - you do or you do not, and we did not on that particular play. We did not play the play well, and it hurt us. It hurt us a lot.”