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John Harbaugh: Fair To Question Run Versus Pass

Posted Sep 16, 2012

The Ravens threw the ball twice in third- and fourth-and-short to end the game.

It was their final drive and the Ravens were facing third-and-1 from their own 46-yard line.

They needed just a field goal to win in Philadelphia. But before they could attempt it, they needed a first down.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco, who were praised for their shared play-calling duties last week, went with two straight passes. The first whizzed over Dennis Pitta's head. The second floated over leaping running back Ray Rice.

Game over.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said they thought about running the ball, but "we thought we had some good calls." Whether or not fans and media pundits agree will be debated.

"I think that's fair," Harbaugh said of questioning the play calls.

"You could have called a draw or something there, but you know they were bringing some heat, and they were hugging the backs too. You know what I mean…it was man coverage, so it would have been hit or miss. We tried some draws, we tried some traps, and even some passing situations, some second-and-longs, and we really weren't hitting that stuff either, so I think that's a fair thing to talk about."

A week ago, Baltimore aired it out 29 times and Flacco completed 21 passes for 299 yards. Despite just 13 touches for Rice (10 carries), the offense received widespread praise. Rice was efficient despite the fewer touches, and ran for two touchdowns.

But after seeing the Ravens offense sputter in the second half in a loss to Philadelphia, the overall run-pass ratio will get more attention.

Flacco threw the ball 42 times. Rice ran 16 times for 99 yards, a stellar average of 6.2 yards per carry. He was more efficient in the first half, running seven times for 78 yards. In the second half, Rice ran nine times but gained just 21 yards.

Rice was more productive as a receiver in the second half. He had three catches for -2 yards in the first half. He had another three snags for 55 yards in the second half.

Overall, Rice was targeted 10 times. He had six receptions and 16 rushes, giving him 22 touches.

"I didn't feel like [the run] was abandoned," Rice said. "I feel like we had to do what we had to do. In this new tempo offense, like I said, I'm not going to say, 'I need the ball, I need this.' My thing is always touches. As long as they find ways to get me the ball, that would be great. But we were running the ball really well today and I think we proved that."

Rice said he felt confident in the Ravens' run game, as always. He said the Ravens have the best fullback in the league in Vonta Leach, and he loves to see him get unleashed.

What Rice had a problem with was the Ravens' performance on third down. Baltimore's offense was just 4-for-14 on the day, a success rate of just 29 percent.

"When we find ourselves getting in those third-and-short situations, that's what it all boils down to [is the running game]," Rice said.

But there's also an element of deception involved. If teams announce they are going to run the ball, it's easier to defend. The Ravens put Flacco in the shotgun every time in third down, often times spreading wide.

"I'm just going with the play calls," Rice said.

"If it's third-and-1 and you put Vonta in the game it's an obvious situation and people probably know there's a high chance to run it. If it's third-and-1 and you've got your tight ends in the game you've got many different options. Whatever it was, it all comes down to execution."

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