Bizarre end-game decisions continue to haunt Ravens

December 14, 2010 | Drew Forrester

their 3rd and final time-out with 2:58 to play in the game. And the only thing you don’t need when you come back for 3rd and 2, right then and there, is a play that stops the clock.

That means you run the ball on 3rd and 2. Period.

Now, I will acknowledge this point because it’s a fact in today’s NFL: Over the last decade or so, 3rd and 2 has become a passing situation. I’m not sure how that happened – or why – but nearly every coach or coordinator would agree with that…most teams are thinking “throw first” on 3rd and 2.

But not when the clock and score and field position dictate otherwise. Monday night in Houston, 3rd and 2 was a running play. If you get the first down, it’s game over. If you don’t get the first down, the Texans get the ball back with roughly 2 minutes remaining…instead of 2:44.

Harbaugh’s explanation after the game made zero sense to me, but here it is anyway:

“We were going for a first down there…we weren’t worried about the clock at that point.”

Well, that’s why the game went to overtime.

If you’re not worried about the clock when there are less than 3 minutes remaining and you’re clinging to a one-possession lead, then you deserve to lose in my opinion.

And to say “we were going for a first down there”? I completely understand that…you NEED a first down. Is there some sort of new rule against getting it by running the ball? The post-game explanation from Harbaugh almost made it seem like the only way Baltimore could get a first down on 3rd and 2 would be to throw the ball in that situation. Reminder: The previous two plays were both 4 yard gains — on Ray Rice runs. Reminder: An incompletion stops the clock. Reminder: Stopping the clock is not good. Reminder: The play call there was a run…because the clock keeps running.

But Cameron’s misuse of the clock wasn’t the only coaching faux pas in the final minutes. The Ravens ended the game with two time-outs in their pocket. That’s right, Baltimore only used one time-out in the second half. And in the last series, with their defense completely out of gas, John Harbaugh only utilized one of his available three time-outs to try and put a halt to a surging Houston offense. Any of you who play in charity golf scrambles are familiar with buying “mulligans”…those are FREE “make good” shots when you hit a shot or a putt that you don’t like. Once the event ends, the mulligans are of no value to you. You MUST use them during the event. That’s how you handle time-outs. You can’t exchange them for anything at game’s end if you didn’t utilize them.

The Ravens spent the final 2:40 or so panting like a teenager at the prom after-party. They were completely gassed. The low-fuel light was no longer blinking, it was on solid. This is where you use your time-outs. Reminder: Time-outs stop the clock. Reminder: When the clock is stopped, your players get the chance to rest. Reminder: When your players are rested, they get the chance to get a sip of water and recover. Reminder: Rested, recovered players are better than fatigued ones.

Reminder: The Ravens won. And they’re 9-4. That keeps them comfortably in the AFC playoff picture.

But they’re 9-4 only by the grace of the football gods.

They’re almost winning despite themselves at this point.

And they won’t be doing a whole lot of winning between now and the end of January if they continue to make bizarre decisions in critical moments that help rescue the opposition from their near-death-experience .