OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Repeating the phrase he offered in the minutes following the Ravens’ 24-23 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, coach John Harbaugh had no problem with those questioning his team’s decision making in the closing minutes.
With the Ravens needing only one yard to move the chains during their final drive, Harbaugh once again said it was fair to critique the choice to throw passes on third and fourth down that resulted in incompletions and a turnover on downs with 50 seconds remaining.
But that doesn’t mean Harbaugh believed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made the wrong play calls on that final drive, either.
“You always look back on it,” Harbaugh said. “Any time it doesn’t work, you look back on it and say, ‘I wish we had done something else. I’m pretty sure if we’d called a run and it hadn’t gone [for a first down], you’d have been wondering why we hadn’t thrown. We all would have. That’s fair — I think it’s always part of the conversation. It’s something you study. No two situations are ever the same.
“We will do whatever we think gives us the best chance to convert.”
Over the course of Sunday’s game, the Ravens faced six situations in which it was third or fourth down and they needed two yards or less to move the chains. In each case, Baltimore not only passed the ball but did it from the shotgun formation.
None of those six situations were converted as media and fans alike have questioned why the Ravens shied away from even attempting to run the ball in short-yardage situations, especially considering quarterback Joe Flacco completed just eight of his 25 pass attempts in the second half. Harbaugh credited the Eagles defense’s ability to stop the run in the second half and pointed out the Ravens employed a similar strategy in their Week 1 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Anything from third-and-1 to [third-and-4], we threw the ball,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we did the week before. There will be times when we’ll run the ball. I think a lot of it was they were stacking the box against us. When they do that, we have some options in there to throw or to run. A lot of it was called passes, all things that we have a lot of confidence in, so I feel good about that. I think we’re going to make most of those, but we didn’t and I’m disappointed about the fact that we didn’t convert those.”
In addition to their reluctance to run the ball in those key spots late in the game, the Ravens also appeared to abandon their no-huddle offense that worked so successfully against Cincinnati to the tune of 44 points.
The offense used a very loose form of a huddle close to the line of scrimmage for nearly the entire second half and operated at a much slower tempo than it did the week before and in most of the preseason. However, Harbaugh said that was by design and dismissed the suggestion that the no-huddle offense was scrapped due to the road environment of playing at Lincoln Financial Field.
“Crowd noise is always a factor in a stadium like that, especially when the game got close,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t feel like it was tabled. We were still in it to some extent. Our pace was what we wanted it to be in terms of we were more in run-pass. We were at the line calling plays quite a bit and we were in [the] huddle a little bit.”
Pollard’s toughness faces test with rib injury
As the Ravens turn their sights toward the New England Patriots for a Sunday night home game, the status of Bernard Pollard will be closely monitored throughout the week after the strong safety suffered a rib contusion in Sunday’s loss.
Pollard exited the game after bringing down Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on a sack to end the first quarter. X-rays were negative as Harbaugh described the injury to Pollard’s chest as a “rib contusion” after the game.
The coach implied Monday that Pollard will have far more of a say than anyone else in determining whether he suits up to play against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
“We’ll see about Bernard. He’s got a little rib [contusion] in there,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just going to come down to him and how he can deal with that pain. He is a pretty tough guy.”
Veteran newcomer James Ihedigbo played in Pollard’s place over the final three quarters Sunday and finished with two solo tackles, one of them going for a loss.
Tight end trouble