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John Harbaugh Explains Clock Management

Posted Nov 11, 2013

The 'best clock manager is converting first downs,' and the Ravens wanted to stay aggressive.

After the Ravens’ 20-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the offense’s second-half clock management came under scrutiny from some members of the media.

The Ravens had a 17-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the offense was unable to put the game away with points or by running out the clock.

The criticism pointed to the fact that the Ravens remained in their no-huddle offense as they were trying to protect a two-score lead in the final 15 minutes. Quarterback Joe Flacco routinely snapped the ball with more than 10 seconds left on the play clock, rather than taking as much time as possible between plays. 

“I thought that was good because you have to make a decision when you want to go into your four-[hyphen]minute mode and when you want to milk the clock completely down,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. 

“When you go into the four-minute mode you change your rhythm. And when you get out of a rhythm sometimes you do things like jumping offsides and they know the snap count because you run the clock down and they can get off on your snap count.”

Not being able to run down the clock or score additional points allowed the Bengals to get back in the game, and the Ravens ultimately ended up winning in overtime on a Justin Ticker field goal.

The Ravens offense has struggled throughout this season, and in the last few games they have moved to more of a quick-strike, spread attack. The unit has seen some success with the no-huddle offense, and the Ravens thought sticking with that strategy was the best approach to pick up first downs and run additional time off the clock. 

“The best clock manager is converting first downs, because if you convert first downs that’s when you’re going to run the most time off the clock,” Harbaugh said. “So you have to balance that with rhythm, and we decided we weren’t going to go into four-minute mode with 10 or 11 minutes left in the game. It just wouldn’t be smart.”

The Ravens had three possessions in the fourth quarter and ran six minutes, 38 seconds off the clock. The unit converted four first downs and operated out of the no huddle on every play where the clock did not stop because of penalties, an incomplete pass or a timeout.

 “We were taking the thing down under 15, 12, 10 seconds, throughout the fourth quarter, and to take it all the way down, I think it would make it tougher on your offense to convert first downs,” Harbaugh said.

“If you get into that four-minute mode and you milk the clock all the way down too much, then you have less of a chance of being successful."

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