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John Harbaugh Explains Decision To Accept Fourth-Down Penalty


As the Ravens discussed Sunday's disappointing 28-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Head Coach John Harbaugh explained his decision to accept a key fourth-quarter penalty that ultimately extended a drive and turned into a Raiders touchdown.

The declined penalty came in the fourth quarter with just over 13 minutes left and the Ravens trailing 14-12. Baltimore's defense stuffed the Raiders for a 5-yard loss on third down, but Oakland was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

If the Ravens declined the penalty, the Raiders would have faced a fourth-and-6 from the Ravens' 25-yard line. That would have been a 42-yard field-goal attempt if Oakland opted to kick it.

Instead, Harbaugh accepted the penalty to make it 3rd-and-17 at the 36-yard line. The hope was to get another stop and force a longer field-goal attempt for Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski.

"What you try to do, is you try to back them up and make it a tougher kick from an angle perspective," Harbaugh said. "I wanted to keep it as a field-goal game."

Instead, the Raiders picked up the first down after a long completion to wide receiver Amari Cooper and an offsides penalty on defensive tackle Brandon Williams the next two plays. Oakland then found the end zone three plays later on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree to take a 21-12 lead.

"Looking back on it, it wasn't the right decision," Harbaugh said of accepting the penalty.

A key piece of Harbaugh's decision was that he wanted to do all he could to keep the Ravens down just two points. The game had been a defensive slugfest up to that point, and Baltimore's offense had struggled to get into a rhythm. 

The Ravens ended up scoring touchdowns on back-to-back possessions later in the fourth quarter, but that scoring outburst was tough to predict at the time Harbaugh accepted the unnecessary roughness call. 

"I didn't have a sense that that many points were going to be scored down the stretch," he said. "It didn't seem like it was going to be played that way. It seemed like it was going to come down to a field goal right there. I wanted to keep it in that range. Looking back on it, I would have done it differently in hindsight."

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