Harbaugh gets second-guessed after Ravens’ first loss
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Striving to score as many points as possible and intent upon keeping the ball away from Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, Ravens coach John Harbaugh succeeded at neither.
Analytics has become a big part of the NFL, and Harbaugh is on board with the trend. Though he insists that most of his in-game decisions are still driven by instinct, Harbaugh’s calls from the sideline Sunday were dictated by numerical research — and the potency of the Kansas City offense.
Less than 24 hours after the 33-28 defeat, Harbaugh was still being asked to explain why he kept the offense on the field for four fourth-down plays and three times went for a 2-point conversion (and failed on each occasion).
“We’re standing by our decisions,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Our decisions gave us the best chance to win that particular game. There’s a lot of factors that go into it that are mathematically calculated. That’s why we did it. It wasn’t a field position game. It was a possession game. And making the most of each possession is what counted.”
The Ravens rallied with 15 fourth-quarter points, but Mahomes’ 374 yards passing and the Chiefs’ 503 yards of offense were too much to overcome — especially since Baltimore was stuffed on the conversion after each of its three touchdowns.
“I go by my gut way more than I go by analytics,” Harbaugh insisted. “If we get the 2-point conversions we win the game. You’ve got to give the Chiefs credit. They made plays, stopped us three times. That’s why they won the game.”
The strategy will likely be different Sunday when the Ravens (2-1) open AFC North play against Cleveland (1-2) because very few offenses are as potent as Kansas City’s.
“We’re trying to score points. You know, the Chiefs have a great offense, an explosive offense,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “Our job is to finish and keep our defense on the sideline as much as we can, and we didn’t do that.”
The running game got into high gear, with Mark Ingram rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
“Just trying to make a play to help my team, that’s all,” the former New Orleans star said. “They had some great blocks where I had to capitalize.”
Baltimore finished with 203 yards rushing, including 53 by backup running back Gus Edwards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Baltimore gave up 349 yards to Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and was shredded by Mahomes.
“We’ve had breakdowns two weeks in a row in different coverages. That’s not good,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not the type of team that gives up big plays and we’re not happy about that at all. That will get fixed. There’s no question. Period.”
Tight end Nick Boyle was given a three-year extension in March because of his ability to block on the line, but his four catches against the Chiefs were tied for the team lead and no one surpassed his 58 yards receiving.
Top draft pick Marquise Brown was limited to two catches despite being targeted nine times. He came in with 12 receptions for 233 yards.
“I think that was a big part of their plan, to take away the downfield shots,” Harbaugh said of the Chiefs.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey missed time against the Chiefs because of a “physical reason,” Harbaugh said.
43: That’s how many passes Jackson threw while playing from behind on Sunday. His previous career high in the regular season was 25. Jackson is 8-2 as a starter, with both defeats coming against the Chiefs.
Baltimore can open up a two-game lead in the AFC North with a win over the Browns. It’s the first of three straight division matchups for Baltimore, which already owns a two-game advantage over winless Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.