Ravens lose another gamble, but don’t expect coach John Harbaugh to stop rolling the dice

The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks at the scoreboard during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Chicago. The Ravens won the game 16-13. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

At this point in the season, there is no reason to develop an ulcer about Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s decisions.

In two of the past three games, he’s attempted a go-ahead 2-point conversion in the final minute and lost. On Sunday, the Ravens fell to the Green Bay Packers, 31-30, after quarterback Tyler Huntley’s pass to tight end Mark Andrews was broken up with 42 seconds left.

As fans walked out of M&T Bank Stadium after a third straight loss, there was a mix of opinion about whether going for two was the right call. But here is a suggestion: Let it go, folks. It’s Harbaugh’s team and he is going to do whatever he wants in his defining moments.

Last year, Harbaugh said his aggressive decisions were largely based on analytics. On Sunday, he said his decisions were based mostly on gut.

He’d make a great politician.

Apparently, he isn’t overly concerned about losing the lead in the AFC North race or possibly missing the playoffs because he has committed the same major boo-boos in the past three weeks. There is also stubbornness here because Harbaugh is like most head coaches — no one is going to tell them what to do with their team.

So, with that attitude, it’s just easier to say “that’s John being John” instead of sucking down a bunch of antacids. If you buck against this current trend of going for two instead of kicking the extra point, they’ll accuse you of being too old school.

To which I reply, how about making the other team beat you instead of beating yourself? If it didn’t work two weeks ago, and only twice in the Ravens’ seven previous attempts this year, what in the name of Vince Lombardi made you think it was going to work Sunday?

Evidence in Harbaugh's favor: Harbaugh can point to all the evidence working in his favor. Because of all the injuries, the Ravens were working with a motley crew in the secondary and the Packers scored four touchdowns and a field goal on their eight possessions.

Plus, if the Ravens kicked the extra point, it would have left one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, with 42 seconds left and one timeout, which is certainly enough time to move into field-goal range against this secondary.

But if the Ravens tied the score, they would have been in a similar position against Rodgers. Unfortunately, the Ravens failed, so the only recourse was to attempt an onside kick. You might have heard they just got their first successful one in 20 years last week in Cleveland.

Darn those analytics.

I liked the fact that the Ravens rallied from 31-17 deficit in the fourth quarter. I like that Huntley led them on scoring drives of 75 and 49 yards in the final 10 minutes.

The Ravens had momentum on both offense and defense. They held Green Bay to a 29-yard field goal after the Ravens failed on fourth-and-6 at their own 29-yard line with 12:01 remaining, and they forced a three-and-out with 2:30 left to set up Huntley’s 8-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left.

And then the dream died.

The 2-point plays: After watching the Ravens lose to Pittsburgh and Green Bay, you really don’t want to hear any more about the decision-making process. Of more interest is how much time the Ravens spend in practice working on 2-point conversions. Is it just another 15- to 20-minute segment, or do they spend a lot of time developing and going over plays since they want to be so aggressive?

Against Green Bay, the Ravens put Andrews outside as a receiver to the right and had Huntley roll that way, which shrunk the size of the field. Because Huntley is only in his second year, he was going to throw to Andrews no matter what because he has been programmed that way.

After the loss to Pittsburgh, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said their 2-point attempt was the wrong play and the Ravens needed a better one. He’ll say the same thing again this week because this one didn’t work, either.

You’d figure that the Ravens might want to try another option since they haven’t had much success. But they won’t. Harbaugh likes to roll the dice. The Ravens have done that several times in other situations and succeeded, which is why they’ve won two overtime games this season and three other games by three points or less.

The philosophy is set in stone now. It’s his way or the highway. Nothing else matters.

If it works, great. And if not, too bad.

It’s his team. Time for fans to move on.