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News & Notes: John Harbaugh Reflects on Fourth-Down Decision vs. Bills

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Baltimore.

After sleeping on it, Head Coach John Harbaugh is just as confident in his decision to go for the touchdown instead of a field goal that would have given the Ravens a lead late in Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Harbaugh said he isn't going to make the "safe decision" just because it takes the heat off him.

"I feel the same way as I felt during the game and after the game," Harbaugh said before outlining the different scenarios. "I really stand by that decision, 100 percent."

At the crux of Harbaugh's argument is the analytics that teams do not stand a particularly good chance of winning when holding a three-point lead with so much time on the clock (about four minutes). His decision was not an indictment on his own defense rather than a belief in the league-wide stats.

"I trust our players implicitly in everything," Harbaugh said. "As a coach, I trust our offense to make plays and extend leads and all that; and I trust our defense to get stops; and I trust our special teams to make plays and flip field positions. So, you start with that.

"There's nothing less safe in the National Football League than a three-point lead, a four-point lead, a five-point lead or a six-point lead. That's kind of been proven."

Had the Ravens kicked the field goal, the Bills would have started the next possession around the 25-yard line. They would have been in four-down mode at least until they reached comfortable field-goal range. Beyond that, they had plenty of time to score a touchdown (as was proven in the Bills' resulting drive).

Harbaugh felt the Ravens' chances of winning were better by taking the gamble of trying to score on fourth down from the goal line. Baltimore's play should have worked out, as Devin Duvernay came wide open in the corner of the end zone, but the Bills' pass rush blocked Lamar Jackson's vision. He didn't see Duvernay until it was too late and Jordan Poyer intercepted Jackson in the end zone.

It was the worst-case scenario because the Bills got the ball back at the 20-yard line instead of the 2. Harbaugh figured the worst outcome was likely his defense starting at the 2-yard line, which had favorable odds for a stop.

"I completely trust our defense with the ball at the two-yard line to get a stop there," Harbaugh said. "They punt us to the 50-[yard line], we run it down into field goal range, we run the time out, and we kick the game-winning field goal, and that was the thinking."

Harbaugh Not Worried About Relationship With Marcus Peters

Cornerback Marcus Peters was clearly upset at the end of Sunday's loss, as he and Harbaugh traded words and Peters had to be restrained on the sideline.

Asked Monday what's next, Harbaugh said he'll talk to Peters when the opportunity arises.

"Marcus is an emotional guy; I'm an emotional guy," Harbaugh said. "I'm not worried about that at all. We'll be fine. What I said last night about Marcus stands, that's how I feel about him. I don't anticipate any issues at all."

Odafe Oweh Did the Right Thing on Final Tackle

The Ravens were trying to let the Bills score a touchdown at the end of the game so they could get the ball back with enough time to attempt a game-tying touchdown.

That's why it was confusing to see Odafe Oweh tackle Bills running back Devin Singletary at the end of an 8-yard run as other Ravens defenders backed off.

However, after watching the play, Harbaugh said Oweh played it correctly. He had the instructions right that it was either let him score or go for a strip, and Oweh saw that Singletary was starting to go to the turf before the goal line, so he tried to pop the ball out.

"Odafe was in a situation where at that point he's not going to be able to pick him up [and carry him in]; he's going to the ground, he's trying to punch the ball out," Harbaugh said. "So, I thought he did the right thing. … It's kind of a desperate situation, so I'm not really too worried about that particular communication. Everybody was on the same page with that."

Harbaugh Wants Roughing the Passer Penalties to Be Reviewable

Referee Jerome Boger explained that he called a penalty on cornerback Brandon Stephens for a hit to the head/neck area of quarterback Josh Allen.

That clearly didn't happen watching the replays, and it was a big miss considering that penalty put the Bills in field-goal range. Otherwise, they would have been facing second-and-15.

Harbaugh said he would like to see such penalties reviewed by officials.

"I didn't see any head or neck contact in all honesty, so I can't speak for Jerome," Harbaugh said. "Jerome is a great official. I have the upmost respect for him. That's real time that they have to make those decisions. I wish they would look at those in review. I think they should take a look at them real quick and get them right, because that put them in to field goal range."

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