Hard to fault John Harbaugh for deciding against field goal vs. Steelers

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens cheers on his team during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Buccaneers 17-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Monday morning quarterbacks will bemoan John Harbaugh’s decision not to kick a potential game-tying field goal with less than a minute to play Sunday night in Baltimore. But given the situation, it’s hard to argue with his rationale.

With less than a minute remaining in the game, the Ravens trailed the Steelers 13-10 and faced a fourth-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 31-yard line. Instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal, Harbaugh decided to go for it in order to give Billy Cundiff an easier attempt.

But the decision backfired as Joe Flacco short-armed a pass to Ed Dickson along the sidelines and the Ravens were forced to turn the ball over on downs. Flacco had Dickson open, but he threw the ball off his back foot and didn’t get enough on the pass, which fell at the tight end’s feet.

Following the game, this is what Harbaugh had to say about the decision:

“It was just a tough wind up there,” Harbaugh said. “It was really outside of our range, as we designated going in. We felt like we had a better chance to get the first down.”

Fourth-and-2 is a very manageable down-and-distance, so it’s hard to blame Harbaugh for deciding to go for it. In that instance, he felt as though converting the fourth down was a higher percentage play than Cundiff making a 48-yard field goal with swirling winds. And had Flacco not Chuck Knoblauch’d the throw, Harbaugh would have been right.

The real crime for the Ravens came on a second-and-5 from their own 38-yard line when they were up 10-6 with roughly three minutes remaining in the game. On that play, Flacco either didn’t see or didn’t adjust the play to account for a blitzing Troy Polamalu, who stripped the Baltimore quarterback to help set up the Steelers’ go-ahead touchdown a few plays later.

Some will argue that the Ravens shouldn’t have been throwing in that situation, but there’s nothing wrong with staying/being aggressive late in the game. But Flacco has to make an adjustment at the line so that Polamalu doesn’t get a free release. He came in unblocked and the outcome was disastrous for the Ravens, who missed a golden opportunity to sweep the Steelers and take sole possession in the AFC North.

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2010 NFL Draft Third Round Recap: Head-Scratchers, Values & More

Biggest Head-Scratcher: Armanti Edwards, WR, Panthers
I’m fully convinced that Carolina GM Marty Hurney wants to get fired. There’s just know other logical explanation as to why he would trade a first rounder last year for Everette Brown and a second rounder in 2011 for Armanti Edwards. I could only imagine how that phone call went between Hurney and Bill Belichick: “Oh hey, Bill? Yeah, this is Marty Hurney from the Panthers. Hey listen Bill, I’m dying to get out of this place and I’m looking to make a really bad decision in hopes of getting canned. I traded our first round pick this year for Everette Brown last year…yeah, Everette Brown…I know, right? Hahaha. Anyway, it didn’t work and now I have to try something drastic again. What do you think about giving us your third for our second in 2011? Awesome. Hey, you watching your TV? Watch this, I’m about to take Armanti Edwards with your pick. Yeah, seriously…I know, right? Haha…” Look, I watched from the stands as Armanti Edwards almost single-handedly burned down the Michigan football program a couple years ago. I know what kind of player he is and thought he would have been a good pick in the later rounds. But Carolina is set to make him a receiver when he’s never played the position before and they gave up a second round pick in the process. It was a major reach and a major risk seeing as how quarterbacks tend to struggle making the transition to receiver. What another lousy draft day decision by Hurney.

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2009 CFB Preview: Oregon Ducks

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 16 in AP Top 25; No. 14 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: LeGarrette Blount (RB); Jeremiah Masoli (QB); Ed Dickson (TE); C.E. Kaiser (OT); Jeff Maehl (WR); Bo Thran (G); T.J. Ward (S); Will Tukuafu (DE); Walter Thurmond III (CB); Clay Matthews (LB); Spencer Paysinger (LB).

Key Losses: Patrick Chung (S); Max Unger (C); Jairus Byrd (CB); Jerome Boyd (LB); Ra’Shon Harris (DT); Jeremiah Johnson (RB); Mark Lewis (G); Nick Reed (DE); Cole Linehan (DT); Justin Roper (QB); Terence Scott (WR); Fenuki Tupou (OT); Jaison Williams (WR).

Player to Watch: LeGarrette Blount, RB.
Blount didn’t get off to a great start in ’09, as he was suspended for missing strength and conditioning workouts in February, then reported to spring practice in April in less than ideal physical condition. (He weighed 10 pounds heavier than his normal playing weight.) But things started to turn around in early August, as Blount reportedly dropped 20 pounds off his spring weight and then showed off his new frame by rushing seven times for 52 yards in a recent scrimmage. Along with his quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, Blount is Oregon’s top playmaker and the backbone of the offense. He’s a bulldozer and as long as he can stay healthy (he was nicked up earlier this spring), he should be in store for big season.

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