Ravens’ Special Teams Burned Again

Baltimore allowed its third touchdown on special teams return to the Browns’ Joshua Cribbs.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Sunday, December 25th, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 16 vs Browns

When the Ravens held their team meeting Wednesday, they put the cross hairs on one man in particular: Cleveland Browns returner Joshua Cribbs.

“We knew the only way they could stay in the game was Cribbs,” special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo said. “We’ve been preaching that all week.

“And he went out and yet again made another big play.”

The Ravens’ special teams unit got burned for a touchdown again, this time on a punt return of 86 yards by Cribbs.

It’s the third touchdown the Ravens have allowed on special teams this season.

It turned what was a 20-0 domination into just a two-score lead, and kick started the Browns’ momentum. They pulled to just six points behind in the fourth quarter, and it all began with the special teams gaffe.

“It’s unacceptable,” Ayanbadejo said. “We know how dangerous he is. It’s something we can’t do on special teams because we let them back in the game when you’ve got to step on their throats and not let off.”

The Ravens had allowed two punt returns for a touchdown in a single season only once before in franchise history (2002).

The other this year was an 82-yarder by Arizona’s Patrick Peterson. The Ravens also allowed a 107-yard kick return for a touchdown to the New York Jets’ Joe McKnight in Week 4. Peterson, McKnight and Cribbs are three of the NFL’s top returners this year.

At first glance, Cribbs’ return was similar to Peterson’s.

The Ravens were trying to pin Cribbs up against the left sideline, but didn’t. Sam Koch’s punt drifted too far toward midfield and the line didn’t squeeze enough to adjust.

Cribbs sidestepped to his left to avoid a diving tackle by safety Haruki Nakamura. He was off from there after just one cut. Cribbs stiff-armed long snapper Morgan Cox and shook off a tackle by Koch on his way to the end zone.

“We kicked him a ball that we don’t kick very often, and I think when you give a returner like that an opportunity like that in space, in those kinds of conditions, he made us pay for it,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

“It was not good coverage, it was not a good punt, and we have to do better than that.”

The 84-yard punt return for a touchdown is a career-long for Cribbs. It’s the third punt return for a touchdown of his career and his 11th special teams touchdown. Cribbs also got the Ravens on a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Cleveland in 2008.

Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who worked for the Browns from 2001-2006, is partially the man responsible for Cribbs’ NFL stardom. Undrafted in 2005, Rosburg saw something in the Kent State quarterback and strongly pushed for him to make the Browns’ roster.

He’s been adamant ever since about Cribbs’ game-breaking ability with his players.

“Hats off to Cribbs and that punt return team,” linebacker Edgar Jones said.

“But we can’t give up touchdowns. I feel like at some point it’s miscommunication and people not staying in lanes, but we all have to take credit for it. We’re all going to work our butts off to get it straight.”

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