Ravens' John Harbaugh praises 'game-changing' special teams plays against 49ers

Daniel Oyefusi, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

BALTIMORE -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh on Monday lauded "three game-changing plays on special teams" he believed played a pivotal role in Sunday's 20-17 walk-off win over the San Francisco 49ers.

The first came at the end of the first half, when cornerback Marlon Humphrey blocked kicker Robbie Gould's field-goal attempt, allowing the Ravens to enter halftime with a three-point lead.

"Obviously that's the difference in the game in the end, if you want to look at it that way," Harbaugh, a former special teams coach in college and with the Philadelphia Eagles, said at his weekly news conference.

In the third quarter, Sam Koch booted a punt to the 49ers' 1-yard line, which was kept in play by somersaulting wide receiver Chris Moore and downed by safety-linebacker Anthony Levine Sr.

"Nobody has a better feel for that than Sam Koch," Harbaugh said. "And Chris Moore, he was high-tailing it down the field. He was gliding. He's got such great awareness."

The last play was kicker Justin Tucker's 49-yard game-winning field goal, which extended the team's winning streak to eight games.

"You wouldn't rather have anybody else in that situation," Harbaugh said after Sunday's game. "That field, that wind, that rain, all of that stuff that was going on there. That's the guy you want in that situation."

Harbaugh said linebacker L.J. Fort also came close to blocking a punt on Sunday and likely would have done so if the weather conditions had not muddied the field.

After Harbaugh called his special teams "inconsistent" in November, the unit has made improvements in recent weeks, especially in the return game. For the second straight week, returner De'Anthony Thomas had a punt return of over 10 yards.

Analytics website Football Outsiders ranks the Ravens as having the second-best special teams unit in the NFL, only behind the Cincinnati Bengals.


"Special teams, I thought, was a big part of the game," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens have waived safety Bennett Jackson, the team announced Monday.

A roster spot likely opens up for safety/special teams ace Brynden Trawick, who on Nov. 14 was designated to return from injured reserve and is eligible to play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

The Ravens have until 4 p.m. Saturday to officially activate Trawick to the 53-man roster or keep him on IR for the remainder of the season.

At his news conference, Harbaugh said a decision had been made on Trawick's status but the team would "wait and see."

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