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John Harbaugh, Players Explain (and Love) Aggressive Approach

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks on his headset during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks on his headset during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear Sunday that the Ravens are going to play aggressively, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

The Ravens went for it on fourth down four times against the Kansas City Chiefs, converting three of those opportunities. Twice the Ravens went for it on fourth down in their own territory, converting once and failing once.

They also failed on three attempted two-point conversions, including once in the fourth quarter when a successful extra point would have put them 10 points behind instead of 11.

The assertive decision-making was part of a 33-28 loss that became the Ravens' second heartbreaking defeat to the Chiefs in two years. However, Harbaugh stuck by every decision that was made, declaring that the Ravens were not going to "play scared", and that every choice was supported by analytics.

"The point was to score as many points as we could," Harbaugh said. "Every one of those were clear analytic decisions to go for two. We had a mindset that we were going to come in and try to score as many points as we could.

"I know we all felt the same way. Lamar (Jackson) felt the same way. We all did. We're going to keep playing that way, just for the record. When you write your articles just understand that and we'll disagree with your criticism. We're going after it. That's the way we're going to play all year."

Ravens players were fully behind the aggressive mindset.

"I love it, I love it, I love it," running back Mark Ingram said after rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. "Come in here to a hostile environment, one of the better teams in the league everyone says. We went toe-to-toe with them, we played aggressive. We got to make sure we execute so we have our coach's back for believing in us."

Had the Ravens been successful on their tries for two points, perhaps the outcome would have been different. The most unexpected two-point conversion attempt came in the fourth quarter, after Ingram's' third touchdown cut Kansas City's lead to 30-19 with 12:22 left to play. Instead of having Justin Tucker kick an extra point, the Ravens went for two, but Jackson threw an incompletion after the Chiefs flushed him out of the pocket.

After Jackson's nine-yard touchdown run made the score 33-28 with 2:01 left, they went for two points again but were denied. Then after an unsuccessful onside kick by the Ravens, Kansas City ran out the clock.

Early in the game, the Ravens established that they did not come to Kansas City to play it safe. Going for it on fourth down led to Baltimore's first touchdown. With the game still scoreless, on fourth-and-three from the Chiefs' 9-yard line, Jackson gained seven yards on a scramble to pick up the first down. On the next play, Ingram scored on a two-yard run.

After the Chiefs were called for holding on the extra point, Harbaugh took Tucker's successful extra point off the board and went for two. Jackson ran to his left but was stopped short of the goal line. Harbaugh said the penalty on the extra point, moving the ball closer to the goal line, factored into his decision to go for two.

"I don't think we were setting any tone," Harbaugh said. "There's no tone to be set. You're trying to do whatever you can to win the game. When you get the ball at the one-yard line after the penalty, it makes a lot of sense to go for two. Unless you're playing scared, which we're not going to do."

Later in the first half, trailing 7-6, the Ravens faced a fourth-and-one from its own 34. They went for it, and Gus Edwards made the first down on a five-yard run. But later in the same drive, the Ravens were stopped on fourth-and-two on their own 47, when Jackson's fourth-down pass was incomplete.

"If those things would've went our way, it would've been a little different.," Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. ."You can look at it either way. Obviously it didn't go our way today and that's tough, but we've got to execute better. I love the aggressive mindset."

Kansas City took advantage of that fourth-down failure by the Ravens, quickly marching 47 yards in five plays to take a 14-6 lead. But the Chiefs are one of the NFL's highest-scoring teams, so the Ravens knew they would likely need a strong offensive performance to win. The Ravens didn't get the result they wanted Sunday. However, in each situation, Harbaugh said he did not regret the aggressive approach of going for first downs on fourth downs, and going for two-point conversions.

"I can just tell you analytically that when you look at the numbers, it's not even close," Harbaugh said. "In terms of percentage of chances to win the game. We believe in our offense, we're going to try and get as many first downs as we can. We're not going into it blind. We've got the numbers."

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