BALTIMORE - The Cardinals’ specials teams figure to be working overtime this week in practice.
They struggled Sunday during the team’s 26-23 loss:
• They gave up a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Yamon Figurs late in the first half. That broke open the game by giving the Ravens a 20-3 lead.
• They failed to score in the half’s final seconds when Neil Rackers’ 47-yard field-goal attempt sailed right and was nearly short.
Rackers recovered to kick a game-tying 41-yard field goal with 1:50 left. He ended up 3-for-4.
• Mike Barr had a couple of subpar early punts.
• Then – early in the second half — they made the worst play of all.
Barr had a great punt to the corner, where the ball appeared on its way out of bounds at the 2-yard line.
But J.J. Arrington needlessly tried to down the ball and ended up sliding into the end zone. So the Ravens got the ball on a touchback at the 20.
The best special teams play was an onside kick in the third quarter recovered by Eric Green. But Larry Fitzgerald negated the play by fumbling after a 25-yard pass play put them in scoring position.
Ravens receiver Derrick Mason compared the game to an epic event in another sport, another era: The Muhammad Ali-George Foreman classic.
“They go 12, 13 rounds. Foreman is beating him, throwing these wild blows.
“Eventually, Ali wears him out, lets (Foreman) wear himself out.
“And he hit him with one big punch, and he fell.
“That’s what happened here.
“We went up early. They came back, they were throwing all their punches at us.
“Eventually, they got tired and we hit them with one big punch,” the Matt Stover game-winning field goal.
EDGE CLOSER TO JUICE
With his 57 yards on 10 attempts, the Cardinals’ Edgerrin James moved past Ricky Watters (10,643 yards) and into 16th place on the all-time list. James now has 10,662 yards. Next on the list is O.J. Simpson’s 11,236.
THE OTHER CONTROVERSY
Postgame discussion centered on the Adrian Wilson hit on Todd Heap that resulted in a personal foul penalty.
But the replays seemed more clear-cut on another play: Bryant Johnson went up to make a touchdown catch that would have put the Cardinals ahead, when cornerback Corey Ivy appeared to grab him before the ball arrived.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “I didn’t see the defender ever turn back and look for the football.
“It looked like he ran into Bryant before the ball got there but I couldn’t tell for sure.”
Johnson said he “wasn’t sure” if interference should have been called.
“I tried my hardest to try to come up with that play. We take pride in making those tough plays.”
The Cardinals settled for a Rackers field goal that tied it, 23-23.
The Ravens are 44-14 at home since 2000, the NFL’s best mark in this time. They’ve also won seven straight at home.
The Ravens also are 3-1 all-time vs. the Cardinals.
THE OTHER QB SHUFFLE
The Cardinals weren’t the only team going with two quarterbacks. The Ravens started Steve McNair, who led them to a 20-3 lead.
McNair, who missed last week with a groin injury, then left the game because, “I could tell he was favoring it a little bit,” coach Brian Billick said.
But there was more to the story of Kyle Boller replacing McNair: The Ravens thought they had the game.
“We talked about it, especially with the lead we had,” McNair said. “I didn’t want to put myself in harm’s way. We felt we were in control.”
Tackle Levi Brown had to leave with an ankle injury. He was replaced by Elton Brown.
Bertrand Berry had to leave briefly with a quadriceps injury but he returned. He helped strip McNair of the ball and recovered the fumble.