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Notebook: Officials Got 4th-Down Spot Right

Posted Nov 26, 2012

John Harbaugh watched tape over and over again Monday to confirm for himself.

The officials reviewed the spot on Ray Rice’s miraculous fourth-and-29 play and awarded the Ravens a pivotal first down.

But Head Coach John Harbaugh wanted to go back and confirm it for himself.

He watched the coaches tape multiple times Monday afternoon and came to a conclusion.

“I know that this is just me and my speculation, when you watch the replay – I watched the coaches copy over and over again – they got the spot right in the end,” Harbaugh said.

“His knee went down at the 35 and his body was at least a yard to the 44, which is the yard to gain, and then he was extending the ball. I think they got the spot right when [Head Referee] Gene [Steratore] brought it back.”

The Chargers, and particularly quarterback Philip Rivers, vehemently disputed the spot.

Video replays seem to show that Rice’s knees hit at the back of the 35-yard line. Rice was lunging forward and had his arms extended as he hit the turf. The force of the tackle pushed him even more forward.

When quarterback Joe Flacco first saw the fourth-and-29 play, he didn’t think Rice made it to the first down marker.

“It just depended on where that marker was and I had no idea where it was,” Flacco said. “I honestly don’t know if [the referees] could really quite see too well where it was.”

Rice wasn’t sure either. After he was finally tackled, he immediately looked to the sideline for the marker.

“I left it in the hands of the officials. I am not going to say they owed us one, but I am glad we came out on top,” Rice said. “After I looked at it, clearly my momentum was going forward. I was hoping for a good spot. I knew I was right on it.”

Harbs Stands By Other 4th-Down Call, Explains Audible

Before Rice’s fourth-down play, there was another fourth-down call that didn’t work out in the third quarter.

Trailing by seven points, Harbaugh opted to go for it on fourth-and-inches from San Diego’s 14-yard line. Harbaugh said he wouldn’t have gone for it had it been longer than about six inches, but he felt like they were going to make it.

Ultimately, the Ravens ran with rookie Bernard Pierce off tackle to the right. The play was quickly blown up in the backfield as Chargers’ Corey Liuget burst past Michael Oher’s block to stuff Pierce for a 2-yard loss.

“My personal philosophy as a coach is you give your guys a chance to make plays,” Harbaugh said. “They won’t always make the play, but you can’t run scared. I trust our players, and I think most of the time, the vast majority of the time, our guys will come through and make those plays.”

The Ravens looked ready to run to the left, and brought in extra blocker Bryant McKinnie on that side. Quarterback Joe Flacco appeared to audible by patting his rear and fullback Vonta Leach motioned to the right. The Chargers had nine players in the box.

Harbaugh said he wouldn’t say that Flacco checked out of a certain play, however.

“He had certain options in there, and he made a decision to go with that play because it was a called play within the choices that he had,” Harbaugh said. “They did a great job of moving a guy and beating us on the backside and defending it.

“There were other options he had there. Sure, he could have gone with them, but you can second guess that all day long. I think it’s part of our offense and it’s what we want to continue to be.”

Harbs: Pollard and Boldin Hits Were Clean

There were two Ravens hits that drew some raised eyebrows Sunday. After reviewing the tape, Harbaugh feels both were clean shots.

One was a hit by safety Bernard Pollard that drew a 15-yard personal foul for a hit leading with the helmet on a defenseless receiver. That helped a Chargers drive that led to a fourth-quarter field goal.

Replay clearly shows that Pollard led with his shoulder on an incomplete pass down the sideline to wide receiver Denario Alexander. The officials gathered and talked about the call for a while before announcing their decision.

“I will be looking forward to seeing what the league says on that,” Harbaugh said. “I think Bernard took every precaution to make it legal. It was a legal, solid hit in his eyes.”

The other hit in question was the block thrown by wide receiver Anquan Boldin on Rice’s fourth-and-29 conversion. Boldin leveled (and concussed) Chargers safety Eric Weddle to help Rice get the final several yards. Boldin’s hit did not draw a penalty.

“Anquan Boldin came back and had as good a football block – legal football block – as physical of a block as you will ever see in football, and that’s Anquan Boldin,” Harbaugh said. “That’s who he is and that made the play happen.”

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