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Late for Work 10/3: Media's Take on Fourth-Down Decision, 'Dreadful' Refereeing

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(From left to right) DB Brandon Stephens & CB Marcus Peters

Media Give Their Take on John Harbaugh's Fourth Down Decision

With just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Ravens on the 2-yard line in a tie ballgame, the offense faced a fourth and goal situation, and Head Coach John Harbaugh decided to keep the offense on the field rather than kick the field goal.

However, the offense didn't convert on the try, with Lamar Jackson's pass intercepted by Bills safety Jordan Poyer. The Bills proceeded to march down the field and kicked a field goal to win, 23-20.

"I felt like it gave us the best chance to win the game," Harbaugh said, as he and other players talked about the aggressive call.

Here's what media members thought of Harbaugh's decision:

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Much of the attention will be on Harbaugh's decision and he's earned the scrutiny. He's the head coach and it comes with the territory, especially when his team continues to lose games in close and agonizing fashion. Dating back to last year, the Ravens have lost five consecutive home games by a combined 12 points…The offense is struggling to finish games and execute at the end. The defense came into the game ranked dead last in the NFL and is struggling to get off the field when it matters. And the head coach's aggressive decision-making is backfiring late in games."

PressBox's Bo Smolka: "Last year, the Ravens tried eight two-point conversions, two of them in game-deciding situations. John Harbaugh put his trust in his offense to get 2 yards when it mattered most. But they went just 2-for-8 in those situations, losing two games by a point when those conversions failed. The decision to play for the touchdown on fourth down seemed eerily familiar, coming from roughly the same spot on the field, with massive stakes again in the balance. And again, the Ravens' offense failed to deliver."

NFL.com's Eric Edholm: "Arguably, a field goal wouldn't have prevented Allen from scoring; it took them only two minutes of game clock to move from their own 20-yard line to the Baltimore 11, with ample time left. But the Bills might have played the end of the game differently down three points instead of it being tied."

NBC's Tony Dungy: "Score tied with four minutes left [and] you go for it. That shows me that Coach Harbaugh didn't have confidence in his defense."

Though some are questioning Harbaugh's fourth-down call, Ebony Bird's Josh Siegel believes Harbaugh made the right decision.

"If the Bills were to take over from the two, they would need to get to around 65-70 yards to feel comfortable with a field goal considering Tyler Bass' career long is 58 yards, and rain and wind were swirling all over the place," Siegel wrote. "Anything less than that, the game would be tied and the Ravens could even potentially get the ball back in regulation with a chance to win the game with their superior kicker."

CBS' Phil Simms said the interception is what hurt, as the Bills gained better field position with the touchback.

"Not picking up for John Harbaugh, there's a lot going on there," Simms said. "If Lamar Jackson doesn't throw the interception [the Bills] have to start from the 2. I think that's a huge difference."

Analytics also agreed with Harbaugh's decision to go for it.

'Dreadful' Officiating Called Out By Pundits, Former Referee

Throughout the contest, the officials made some huge (and questionable) calls. Multiple times, Ravens players expressed their frustration with referee Jerome Boger.

Ravens fans were upset by what felt like lop-sided calls and they weren't alone, with media upset by the roughing the passer call on the hit by cornerback Brandon Stephens on Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

After the game, Boger was asked about what he saw on the Stephens penalty.

"What I had was forcible contact in the head/neck area of the QB with the helmet," Boger said.

USA Today's Doug Farrar didn't agree, calling the penalty a "ridiculous roughing the passer call [that] cost the Ravens dearly."

"There isn't any head or neck contact, forcible or otherwise," Farrar wrote. "Boger has a bit of a history regarding consistency of calls in his career, but when you are an official are told by the league to call roughing the passer if there's even the appearance of it, and you then multiply that variance by Boger's variance… well, weird things are going to happen."

Another questionable call occurred early in the game when tight end Mark Andrews was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Later on, Bills tight end Dawson Knox wasn't flagged for clearly interfering with Stephens on a touchdown pass in the red zone. Neither was Poyer for contacting wide receiver Demarcus Robinson well before he had an opportunity for the football.

Media Reacts to Second Blown Lead of the Season, Players Not Panicking

After losing a 21-point lead to the Dolphins and now a 17-point lead to the Bills, media members were disappointed the team couldn't put the game away with ample opportunities.

The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer: "The Ravens had every opportunity in the first half to put this game away. They couldn't. Against a Bills team with superior talent — and, on Sunday, a superior quarterback — that was always going to court disaster. Now they'll have to put the ugliness of the second half behind them as they prepare for a hugely important game against the Bengals. Yes, it's at home, but that hasn't mattered much lately."

The Baltimore Sun's Tim Schwartz: "Four games is enough of a sample size to know what a team's DNA is, and the Ravens are exactly who we thought they were. They create turnovers. They have Lamar Jackson doing things only he can do, even without a true No. 1 wide receiver. And they are perfecting the art of the second-half collapse."

Russell Street Report's Darin McCann: "There were two handfuls of times the Ravens could have iced this game, or at least put it more firmly under their control, but didn't. There were some questionable decisions — by the quarterback, the coaches and the men in stripes. This was a gross loss to the Bills. Make no mistake about it. But there's a path for this team to get better and become an actual contender as opposed to a paper tiger. They need to learn to win, sooner than later."

CBS Sports' John Breech: "If we've learned one thing about the Ravens this season, it's that you should never turn off any game they're playing in because there's a good chance they're going to blow a big lead. For the second time in three weeks, the Ravens looked to have a win wrapped up, and for the second time in three weeks, they let that win slip away. In Week 2, the Ravens blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins. This time around, the Ravens blew a 17-point lead in a wild 23-20 loss to the Bills."

Though pundits are voicing their concern, players for the Ravens are not ready to panic. According to NFL.com's Jim Trotter, defensive end Calais Campbell "made a declaration for everyone to hear" in the postgame locker room.

"'Give them their respect,' he said of the Bills, 'but we're going to be a really good defense as we continue to improve. The biggest thing is just realizing it's the first quarter of the season and there's a lot of football to play so we have to look at how can we improve? How can we get better? But I'm not going to sit here and act like ... 'We're not going to panic and try to change everything,' he said. 'The group we have on defense, we're special. We've just got to continue to play football and get better and find a way to win football games. But I genuinely think we'll play this team again.'"

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