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Harbaugh looks back, but doesn’t regret decision making in loss to Eagles

Posted on 17 September 2012 by Luke Jones

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


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Ravens fall in Philly: Put this one on bad coaching and horrible pass coverage

Posted on 16 September 2012 by Drew Forrester

Let the second-guessing begin.

I don’t know any other way to say it, so I won’t mince words or try to come up with some creative way of putting it.

If you have two time-outs remaining and it’s 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1, one of those plays must be a run play to get the first down and extend the game.

You have a red-hot field goal kicker, booting it with the wind.  Honestly, all you might have needed there was to get to the Eagles 42 yard line and Justin Tucker would have been a fair bet to kick a 59-yarder to win the game.

Instead, Cam Cameron sent in two passing plays to end the game.

And Joe Flacco didn’t change them at the line of scrimmage.

Two plays later, with two time-outs still on the clock, the Ravens turned the ball over on downs and the Eagles won, 24-23.

Now, in fairness, Philadelphia deserved to win.

Michael Vick, Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson torched the Ravens linebackers and secondary all afternoon.  I don’t think the great Chicago fire of 1871 was as damaging.  If not for three red-zone turnovers, Philadelphia would have won the game with ease.  The Eagles, as the saying goes, hung around long enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Credit to them.

The Ravens, meanwhile, essentially put Ray Rice on hiatus for most of the second half, that is until their penultimate drive when Rice accounted for 60 yards as the Ravens used Tucker’s third field goal of the day to go up 24-23.  I’m not quite sure how it happens that one of the best all-purpose backs in the entire league goes 20 minutes or so and touches the ball three times, but that’s what happened on Sunday.  When Rice got the ball in the first half, he was deadly.  When he finally touched it late in the 4th quarter, he was again a wrecking ball.  When he didn’t factor in the game-plan, the Ravens offense stalled.  You figure it out.

Flacco’s performance was as puzzling as the late game play calling. He was sharp in the first half, going 14-for-17 for just 92 yards and a TD throw to Jacoby Jones.  He looked a lot like the Flacco who carved apart the Bengals last Monday night.  In the second half, he looked more like – gasp! – Kyle Boller.  Following an ill-advised throw that was picked off by DeMeco Ryans on the first series of the second half, Flacco went into what we formerly referred to “affectionately” as the Boller-shell.  He was off on his throws, looked unsure of himself and was apparently rattled by the Eagles pass rush and the pick he threw to Ryans.  It didn’t help, of course, that Michael Oher was so ineffective on the left side that Harbaugh and Cameron had to go with Bryant McKinnie for a couple of series’ just to try and keep their quarterback from getting pounded.

(This is also the spot where I could rake the officials over the coals, but in all honesty, they were horrible on both sides of the ball all day, so writing about their influence on the game is moot.  They stink, as we’ve all seen, and the league should be embarrassed beyond belief for having them out there.  They’re just in over their head, period.  Enough said on that topic.  And as far as I could tell, none of the refs called two passing plays on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 to end the game.)

In a league where every game counts – mostly at the end of the season when you’re scraping for every piece of daylight in the standings you can get – this one might very well come back to haunt the Ravens later on down the road.  With Tucker’s dynamic leg, Baltimore was literally only about 15 yards from a very reasonable field goal attempt when they approached their own 46 yard line with 57 seconds left to play.

I was in the press box at Lincoln Financial Field saying, “Run the ball here…get the first-down…and call a time-out.”

They threw it.  Incomplete to Dennis Pitta.

With two time-outs remaining, another pass play was sent in on 4th and 1 and that, too, fell incomplete.

I’m a dummy from Glen Burnie, admittedly, but you just can’t lose a game like that when you only need one yard to keep a drive going and you have two time-outs to burn.

This one shouldn’t sit well with John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco.  I know Joe likes to air it out and I realize he’s trying to “announce his presence with authority” (Bull Durham reference, thank you very much), but the number one goal on the agenda in the final two plays was easy — get a first down.  That gives you four more plays, at least.

Not getting a first down there is just unacceptable.  Period.

And that’s how you lose football games that you coulda, shoulda, woulda won.



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