The Baltimore Ravens tied an NFL record with the 43rd consecutive game with over 100 rushing yards, needing a last-second five-yard run by quarterback Lamar Jackson to eclipse the century mark on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio appeared upset on the sideline with the Ravens’ decision to go for the decades-old record rather than take a knee for the game’s final play.
Mike Klis of 9 News in Denver reported that some Broncos players were “livid” as they left the field after the end of the game.
Fangio did not mince words during a press conference today, telling media, “I thought it was kind of bull**** but I expected it from them.”
When asked why he expected the Ravens to attempt to reach 100 rushing yards, Fangio responded, “Because I just know how they operate, player safety is secondary.”
Fangio’s comments quickly grew into a firestorm on social media, with many criticizing the longtime coach for calling all three of Denver’s timeouts with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter despite a 16-point deficit.
Others pointed out that the Broncos’ starters were still on the field for the team’s final drive, despite the fact that starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater already left the game due to a concussion, making Fangio’s concerns about “player safety” sound more like sour grapes that his defense couldn’t hold the Ravens to under 100 rushing yards.
Harbaugh Responds to Fangio’s ‘Insult’
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh in turn called out the Broncos’ decision to go for a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game and virtually no shot at winning.
“Throwing the ball in the end zone with 10 seconds left. I don’t know that there’s a 16-point TD that’s possible there. That didn’t have anything to do with winning the game,” said Harbaugh.
In fact, that attempt for a touchdown is the only reason the Ravens were even able to attempt to reach 100 rushing yards. Rather than run the clock out, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock heaved a throw into the end zone, which resulted in an interception for Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett and gave the Ravens one final play on offense.
“We didn’t expect to get the ball back. But I already decided, we decided, that if we got the ball back, we were going to try to get the yards,” Harbaugh added.
Fangio’s comments about the Ravens are somewhat curious given his history in Baltimore and ties to Harbaugh. He spent four seasons on the Ravens’ coaching staff, including two under John Harbaugh. He was also defensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh’s brother, with both the Stanford Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
“I thought we were on good terms,” said John Harbaugh, “We had a nice chat before the game, known each other for a long time.”
“I’m not going to give that insult one second thought,” he added.
Harbaugh Owns Decision to Go for Record
After yesterday’s game, Harbaugh told media that the decision to run the ball on the game’s last play was “100 percent my call.”
“That’s one of those things that’s meaningful. As a head coach, you have to be mindful of your team, your players, your coaches and what it means to them,” he said.
Harbaugh defended his decision again today in response to Fangio’s comments, saying “What’s meaningful to us might not be meaningful to them.”
It’s easy to see why Harbaugh and the Ravens cared about the record of 43 consecutive games with over 100 team rushing yards, which was set by the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. The team has faced intense criticism for the past four seasons due to their embrace of a run-heavy offense led by Lamar Jackson, going against the grain of the pass-dominant modern NFL.
“It’s a very, very tough record to accomplish, and it’s a long-term record,” said Harbaugh on Sunday. The Ravens will have a good chance to gain sole ownership of the record next week against the Indianapolis Colts, with the ability to extend it well past 50 games. With NFL teams passing more than ever, that record may never get broken.