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Should Kyle Juszczyk Have Gone Down Instead Of Scoring?


To score or not to score; that is the question.

Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk scored a go-ahead touchdown with 78 seconds remaining in Sunday's AFC North rivalry game in Pittsburgh, bouncing off multiple tacklers to dive into the end zone. Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown won the game with nine seconds left.

So what if Juszczyk had been tackled by Steelers safety Mike Mitchell instead of running him over? What if he had intentionally gone down just short of the goal line?

Would the Ravens have still scored? Would they have burned off enough time to prevent a touchdown on the other end?

Those are questions fans and pundits were pondering after Sunday's brutal 31-27 loss in Pittsburgh, and one that Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked about in the post-game press conference. What's the balance of trying to use up clock while still needing to score?

"Yes, it's tough to balance that," Harbaugh said. "We're trying to score a touchdown. If you're saying we should have sat on the ball and then kept our fingers crossed to score later, I would say that's not a strategy I've seen attempted too often."

After leading for most of the second half, the Ravens offense took over possession, trailing by four points, with seven minutes, 16 seconds left. They needed a touchdown, and had plenty of time to get it.

The Ravens moved efficiently down the field, mostly in shotgun formation and while using some no-huddle offense. They were at Pittsburgh's 19-yard line at the two-minute warning. The Steelers still had two timeouts left, so they could have preserved more time.

Baltimore's first play after the two-minute warning was a short pass to tight end Dennis Pitta for a 3-yard gain. That took 35 seconds off the clock. The Ravens then handed the ball off to Juszczyk out of the shotgun formation (the first time they did that all year). Usually, a handoff to the fullback doesn't go for 10 yards, but the Pro Bowler ran hard downhill.

Juszczyk cut back his run behind an excellent block by right tackle James Hurst, who had stepped in for starter Rick Wagner (concussion). Juszczyk lowered his pads and took on Mitchell in the hole around the 7-yard line. He had already picked up a first down.

Juszczyk bounced sideways, then forward to leap over the goal line. He could have gone down, but that certainly isn't a football player's instinct, especially when trailing on the scoreboard.

It's no guarantee that the Ravens would have scored if Juszczyk went down inside the 5-yard line.

The Ravens have had just eight situations this season* *with first-and-goal from 5 yards or less (tied for the fewest in the NFL). They scored touchdowns on seven and were stuffed on fourth down on the goal line in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants in Week 6.

Pittsburgh has the NFL's fifth-best defense inside the 5-yard line this season. The Steelers have allowed touchdowns just 69.2 percent of the time (9-of-13).

In the end, the offense can't be faulted for scoring.

"They had a lot of time left on the clock and it's our job to get them stopped," Harbaugh said. "It's our job to get them stopped. That's what we didn't get done."

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