The Ravens needed just one more first down to put away Sunday's game.
The offense had the football with a fresh set of downs with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in regulation. Baltimore had a 20-19 lead and Jacksonville had just one timeout remaining. The Ravens decided to run down the clock and eat up the Jaguars' final timeout, rather than go with the riskier option of throwing the football to move the chains.
The Ravens ultimately had to punt and the Jaguars came back down the field to kick a game-winning field goal, but quarterback Joe Flacco defended Baltimore's strategy.
"That's always a debate," Flacco said. "You can have that debate forever on whether you should be dropping back and throwing the ball or doing some type of play-action, but I think we did the right thing."
Here's how the series of plays in question unfolded:
First down (from Jacksonville's 48-yard line): Run to Justin Forsett for no gain. Timeout Jacksonville.
Second down: Run to Forsett for 1 yard. Two-minute warning.
Third down: Pass to Buck Allen for 4 yards.
Fourth down: Punt.
The Ravens went with the conservative approach, but that kept the Jaguars from getting the football back with any opportunities to stop the clock. Prior to the final punt, running the ball and short passes was working as the offense had already picked up two first downs on the drive. When the Jaguars took over possession, they had just 66 seconds to set up a game-winning field* *goal attempt.
"You have to get that first down, but obviously you want to keep the clock running and leave them as little time as possible," Flacco said. "They didn't have a lot of time and no timeouts. Just over a minute is not a lot of time, and it makes it really tough."
Part of the problem for Baltimore was that the punt by Sam Koch bounced into the end zone for his first touchback of the season. He has been lights out at pinning teams deep inside their own territory, but this punt went right into the end zone before the coverage team even had a chance to down it.
"That ball for Sam bounces straight up in the air 99 percent of the time, probably," Flacco said.
The touchback gave the Jaguars the ball at the 20-yard line, and they ultimately drove down the field for the game-winning field goal with the help of a 15-yard facemask penalty.
The reality is that the play calling on Baltimore's final possession wouldn't even be much of a discussion if the ensuing drive had gone differently. The Ravens had Jacksonville stopped to end the game, but outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil's facemask penalty and a missed illegal motion penalty by the officials kept the game alive for the final field-goal attempt.
Jacksonville hit the 53 yarder to come away with the victory, leaving everything up to question after the game.
"I thought we played it right," Flacco said. "When you lose like that, it's tough to question what we did."