Do you remember that play against the Steelers that had you screaming at your television and questioning Cam Cameron’s employment status?
The common answer from fans has been, “which one?” but Ravens coach John Harbaugh addressed the decision that had most fans up in arms. His decision resulted in the Steelers getting the ball back on their 16-yard line with an opportunity to score with 1:05 left in the fourth-quarter.
In what appeared to be an ideal rushing situation to keep the clock running after the two-minute warning, Joe Flacco took a snap out of the shotgun formation and ended up being sacked by Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
Even though the Steelers got the ball back, they failed to score and the Ravens ended up winning 13-10. Aside from the win and an AFC North best 8-2 record, the majority of the fan base was still upset with the coaching staff’s decision during a critical part of the game.
The aforementioned decision was addressed on Monday.
“We had talked about [running], and at one point in the time that was the plan. That was exactly what we were going to do,” Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. “They put a defense out there that made our guys think that we really weren’t going to have a chance, any chance, to get the first down if we ran the ball there. So, the decision was made to put it in Joe’s [Flacco] hands and basically say, ‘if he is wide open, throw it to him. If he’s not wide open, take the sack.’”
By electing to give Flacco the option to pass, the Ravens essentially conceded their rushing attack was no match for the NFL’s top-ranked defense during a pivotal part of the game.
While many armchair offensive coordinators were calling for a run play, Harbaugh and his coaching staff didn’t believe it would be successful.
“A dive play wouldn’t have worked against the defense they ran. They were brining everybody inside. They’re pretty good, and they stopped the lead play. The dive play – in all likelihood- would have gotten stopped there too. Someone running outside would have had a chance but they were bringing safeties off the edges, too”
Thankfully for the Ravens, the Steelers had previously mismanaged the play clock, which forced them to use two of their three timeouts early. In an effort to reduce as much time possible on the clock, Harbaugh made the decision he saw best fit.
“There is nothing wrong with running the ball right there, taking your chance, try to block those guys. If you get the first down, you get the first down,” Harbaugh said. “The more important thing was – because they had no timeouts – was to use the 40 seconds. That was the main issue.”
Regardless if you thought Harbaugh’s decision was the correct one or not, it worked. Historically under Cameron, many of his play calls leave fans scratching their heads and searching for answers. In this case, Harbaugh’s explanation makes sense, especially against a defense where Ray Rice only managed 2.0 yards per carry and the running game couldn’t find its rhythm all evening.