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John Harbaugh Explains Coaching Decisions

Posted Oct 13, 2013

The Ravens went for it on fourth-and-1 on the goal line and passed near the end of the half.

Head Coach John Harbaugh didn’t like the results, but felt confident in his coaching decisions during two key points in the game.

First, Harbaugh and the Ravens decided to go for it on  fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line in the first half and were stuffed on the goal line. A field goal would have tied the game at 3-3. Later, they decided to be aggressive and pass with 12 seconds left in the first half from their own 34-yard line, but surrendered a sack and fumble that led to three points for Green Bay.

Considering the Ravens lost by two points, 19-17, they proved to be huge decisions in the game. They were the difference between a potential six points.

“Those are decisions that most of the time are going to pay off for you,” Harbaugh said.

“They didn’t pay off, it’s disappointing, but we should keep chasing that. We don’t want to be the kind of team that’s going to play nervous, not give our guys a chance, an opportunity, to do things and make plays.”

The Ravens offense was struggling in the first half, yet got down inside Green Bay’s 5-yard line mostly due to a 45-yard gain by Dallas Clark.

Trailing by three points, the Ravens smelled an opportunity to take the lead on the Packers.

Baltimore put trust in its offensive line. The Ravens ran three straight times with Ray Rice from inside the 5-yard line, but it went for just three yards. The Packers declined a holding penalty, almost daring the Ravens to try to put it into the end zone from the 1 instead of backing them up.

The Ravens went for it instead of taking what likely would have been three points. Bernard Pierce came in on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line and was hit in the hole by strong safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Micah Hyde.

“You’ve got a high-percentage opportunity to make that fouth-and-1. I like our chances there,” Harbaugh said. “If we don’t make it, we’ve got them backed up on their own 1. I feel really good about making them punt out of their own end zone and field position coming back the other way.

“I think that was a good decision there.”

The Ravens have struggled running the ball this year, but have done well on the goal line. Ray Rice scampered in for two short touchdowns a week ago in Miami. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda said he was excited the Ravens were going for it against Green Bay.

“I liked going for it; we want to get six points instead of three, especially facing the Packers who can score points. You want to feel like they have confidence in us,” Yanda said. “It’s just tough that we didn’t get it done up front. We didn’t block it well enough to get in.”

Harbaugh also was aggressive at the end of the first half, but to no avail. The Ravens had the ball at their own 34-yard line with 20 seconds remaining and they had all three timeouts. They wanted to get a quick strike into field-goal range and at least tie the game heading into the half.

Except new left tackle Eugene Monroe was burned outside by pass rusher Nick Perry, who buried quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco fumbled and the ball was recovered by the Packers, which put them in field-goal range after a 20-yard return.

Instead of perhaps tying the game before the half, Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired to put the Packers up by six.

“I felt like we had a good chance with our kicker,” Harbaugh said. “We had a better chance to complete a pass or get an offensive pass interference than we did to have that happen.

“You’ve got confidence in your guys,” Harbaugh said. “You give your guys a chance to make plays in situations like that. They made a nice play, and it cost us three points.”

Harbaugh said he generally wants to have an attacking mentality as a coach.

The Ravens have also conducted extensive statistical research into the percentages teams have success in difficult fourth-down and other situations. So there is a body of research for Harbaugh to lean upon.

“I think the philosophy is basically to attack, yes,” Harbaugh said. “You try to do it within reason. We’re never going to be reckless in what we do. If you look closely at the NFL percentages, those are not reckless decisions by any stretch.

“We’re going to be an attacking, aggressive type of group. It’s been good to us up until this point, so let’s build our team into that.”

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