John Harbaugh is the best kicker in the NFL, now, and possibly ever. Still, one point behind, he left Justin Tucker on the sidelines on Sunday night and managed a 2-point conversion in the dying seconds in Pittsburgh.
Lamar Jackson didn’t have enough contact on his pass to an open Mark Andrews, and the Ravens (8-4) fell 20-19 to the Steelers. The loss lost Baltimore to the top of the AFC overall standings.
It seemed like one of the strangest decisions of a weird NFL season. But Harbaugh, one of the best coaches in the league, was quick to explain his reasoning.
âWe tried to win the game there. We were pretty much out of turns at the time â, Harbaugh said without noting that the Baltimore high school has been on the run all season, regardless of who is playing. “It was an opportunity for us to win the game there.”
Considering Jackson’s versatility, this was probably a strong opportunity. But the one item that isn’t a big part of Jackson’s bag of tricks is the finesse pass, which this piece called for.
âYou saw the room. It’s so close said Harbaugh. âIt’s a game of thumbs. You saw the speech in “Any Given Sunday”, right? It’s football. It’s just so close.
Like the entire AFC race.
Baltimore’s decision surprised rivals. And no.
“I was a little surprised because I left the field running” said DE Cam Heyward, who is not on the special teams. âBut we called the time out, saved me a few extra seconds. At first I thought (Andrews) scored, because he had it in his hand and then he dropped it. But I mean, it’s just a piece or two that goes your way.
Harbaugh’s bet was in character, according to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who faced Ravens coach for nearly 14 seasons.
“You know what, coach Harbaugh, guy from Miami (Ohio), nothing surprises me”, Big Ben said. “And that’s why he’s, you know, I consider him a great football coach because he takes those risks and believes in his team, and as a player I’m sure they like that belief in them.”
Fair enough, and who can say the Ravens would have won a toss to start overtime, walked down the field and scored a touchdown to end it without putting their secondary on the field?
But the decision highlights just how difficult the downturn can be for coaches. There is no accepted manual on how to handle such situations. Often times, intuition is the best approach.
Unfortunately, very few head coaches have the courage to go with their instincts. Far too many of them train not to lose rather in order to win. Is there anything more frustrating than watching your team go into preemptive defense? ClichÃ© warning: All preemptive defense does is stop you from winning.
See what happened in Detroit, which is quite emblematic of what the Vikings went through in 2021. A team talented enough to be high in the mix for NFC wildcard spots, they fell to 5-7 largely because they closed down on the throttle. Minnesota added a two-point loss to the eight, seven and four point losses; by three points in a pair of overtime games; and 34-33 in Arizona.
Giving the Lions (1-10-1) their first win of the season roughly, the Vikings entered such a defensive shell, and contested Detroit on offense, covered 75 yards in 1:50. Without waiting period.
Jared Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown just over the goal line as time ran out – the Vikings’ defensive backs being way too deep in the end zone.
The Minnesota three-way race turned against him.
âLooking back, we would have liked to have had more pressure on him. Coach Mike Zimmer said of Goff, âBut I don’t think we cover very well. I thought we needed more people in the blanket than we had in the front. Obviously, it didn’t work.
Very often this is not the case. Lesson? It hurts more to be passive and lose than to be super aggressive and lose.
“Honestly if we had converted the conversion to 2 points we would have had a different conversation right now” Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes said. ” Let’s be realistic. We were talking about how we found a way to win.
âAt the end of the day, they found a way to make a game and we didn’t. This is what happened. This is the goal of these matches, especially at the end of the season. They made an extra game.
AP sports writers Will Graves and Larry Lage, as well as freelancers Dave Hogg and Dan Scifo contributed.