For the third week in a row, the Baltimore Ravens have sparked controversy with a failed two-point attempt, this time against the Green Bay Packers on December 19.
Down star quarterback Lamar Jackson and extremely-depleted on both offense and defense, the Ravens still stayed in the game until the fourth quarther, when they scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to cut the Packers’ lead to just one point. Quarterback Tyler Huntley, in his second career start, ran in an eight-yard touchdown with just 42 seconds left to bring the score to 31-30.
Head coach John Harbaugh opted to attempt a go-ahead two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point, but Huntley’s pass couldn’t find Ravens tight end Mark Andrews on a play that was criticized from many angles.
Former Ravens Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe was one of many who criticized Harbaugh for even attempting the two-point conversion, especially after Baltimore’s last two games. The Ravens failed to convert two-point attempts in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns in Weeks 13 and 14, with Harbaugh standing by his decision both times.
Sharpe also referenced a similarly-criticized first-quarter decision to attempt a 4th-and-goal at the Packers’ three-yard line instead of kicking a field goal. The Ravens failed to convert that attempt as well, though Green Bay was unable to take advantage on their next drive.
But Harbaugh’s decision should hardly be surprising, as he’s made similarly bold decisions all season, including a game-winning fourth-down conversion against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.
In fact, Harbaugh and the Ravens were in a similar situation against the Steelers in Week 12, when Pittsburgh’s offense was unstoppable in the fourth quarter and Baltimore was missing several cornerbacks. Against the Packers, the Ravens were relying on practice squad players on defense to slow down Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, so losing a coin flip in overtime could essentially end the game.
Andrews Backs Controversial Decision
Instead, the Ravens went for the win, and both Andrews and Harbaugh were both emphatic in defending that decision.
“That was the decision,” said Andrews after the game, “I think people that second-guess that are wrong. I think that was the right thing to do.”
Andrews had another exceptional game on December 19, finishing with 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns and reaching the 1,000-yard mark in a single season for the first time in his career along the way.
“We’re an aggressive team. We fought, we clawed,” he continued, “So, I loved the decision, and I think we’re past that already. We’re going to keep being aggressive.”
Harbaugh Embracing Aggressive Reputation
Harbaugh offered the same postgame rationale as he did after the Steelers game: “Trying to win the game right there.
He also emphasized that his decisions, both against the Packers and in previous games, were rooted in what he thought gave the Ravens the best chance to win.
“It’s situation to situation,” said Harbaugh, “To me, in both of those cases, that gave us the best chance to win. Because we didn’t win doesn’t make it not true.”
Harbaugh had apparently made up his mind earlier in the game, according to Huntley, who told media that Harbaugh had mentioned a potential game-winning two-point conversion attempt before the Ravens scored the first of their two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Sure, Harbaugh may have been getting ahead of himself still down by 14 points, but it’s a testament to his faith in even a heavily-depleted Ravens team to overcome another late deficit. That faith was rewarded by two excellent drives by Huntley, who just couldn’t get the ball to Andrews through traffic on the fateful two-point conversion.
“[Andrews] had space for a moment,” said Huntley, echoing Harbaugh’s earlier sentiments that the Packers defense made a “good play.”
With the loss, the Ravens fall to 8-6 and second place in the AFC North, pending the results of the Browns’ rescheduled Week 15 matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders.