John Harbaugh said he never really questioned the decision to go for it on fourth down-and-goal late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' eventual 17-14 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.
Sitting at Pittsburgh's 2-yard line with 2:44 remaining, the offense's final opportunity to reverse a 14-10 deficit was denied when cornerback William Gay broke up quarterback Joe Flacco's pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the left rear corner of the end zone.
The Ravens bailed out offensive coordinator Cam Cameron 2:12 later when Flacco connected with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the game-winning, 18-yard touchdown, but Harbaugh said during his weekly session with Baltimore media Monday that he felt good about going for it on the previous possession instead of opting for a field goal.
"There's a thought, but we were on the 2-yard line, and I think we've got a chance to win the game right there," he said. "We have a good football team, and I'm pretty confident in our guys. We didn't get it done there, but we obviously got it done the next time. So it proved that we could score in those situations. But you've got to give your guys a chance to win the game. That's what we did."
Harbaugh also said that he agreed with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's decision to punt the football from the end zone rather than surrendering a safety, which would have left the Ravens with just needing a field goal for the victory.
"I'm pretty sure Mike would tell you that's what he did, gave his defense a chance to win the game, and our offense came up with the plays," Harbaugh said. "That's what happens in football, and I'm proud of our guys for getting it done. There's no way I think he should have taken a safety there. So [if] he kicks it to us and we go down and kick the game-winning field goal, what would they be saying right now?"
After Sunday's win, Harbaugh awarded Cameron with a game ball – a move to affirm the team's faith in Cameron.
"There were some calls that went back and forth," Harbaugh said. "He knows. The third-and-1 where we ran that waggle play, whoo, that was tough. We didn't get the ball in on fourth down, but the thing that I admire so much about Cam is the fact that he is unflappable. He has got ice water in his veins. He's always thinking, and he takes input. If I tell him to do something, he'll do it, but you try to stay away from that as a head coach because that's not the best way to allow your coordinator to do his best work. Cam Cameron is, I think, the best offensive play caller in the game. So for him, the way he kept his poise in that tough environment cand came up with those calls down the stretch, I was proud of him, I was happy for him, and I know our players felt the same way."
*There are no lingering worries regarding the status of running backs Ray Rice (bruised right knee) and Willis McGahee (hit in head). "I didn't think he really showed any signs of the knee issue," Harbaugh said of Rice. "He did a great job last week of getting himself ready to play, and he looked good on Sunday. Willis doesn't have a concussion. So he should be fine. Those guys are OK."
*Defensive end Paul Kruger is the team's most serious injury concern as he is dealing with what Harbaugh called a strained left knee. "He's probably the one guy that has the one injury issue," Harbaugh said. "… He is getting an MRI today. So we'll just have to see how he comes through." Later, Harbaugh said he didn't have an update on the availability of defensive end Cory Redding, who missed Sunday's game due to aftereffects from a concussion. "I would assume that would be clearing up," Harbaugh said. "You hope, but with a concussion, you just have to wait and see."
*Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is visiting Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist in California, to get another opinion on a thoracic disk injury that has sidelined practically since Aug. 5. "Jared's just getting out there today, so we look forward to hearing that report," Harbaugh said. "I'm excited to see how that goes."
*Harbaugh said his demonstrative conversation with officials after the Steelers punt from the end zone in the fourth quarter centered on whether linebacker Keyaron Fox's holding penalty occurred in the end zone. Had that been the case, the call would have resulted in a safety. "That's what I was asking," Harbaugh said. "Were they sure? Because with the ball being on the 2-, 2½-yard line, you felt there was a chance that maybe it was in the end zone. Looking at the tape, it was borderline. I could see where they would call it either way." In hindsight, Harbaugh said he wasn't sure whether the safety would have paved the way for the Ravens to leave with a win. "I really don't know," he said. "At the time, I didn't know we were going to go down and score a touchdown. If I had known that, I would have said, 'No, you know what, we'll take the ball at the 40-yard line.' But if we hadn't scored the touchdown, I'd be sitting here, saying, 'Yeah, we should have gotten a safety on that. All we had to do was kick the field goal.'"
*There has been speculation that Sunday's outcome would have been markedly different had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger been available to the Steelers instead of serving the last part of his four-game suspension. But the Ravens played without six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, and Harbaugh said many teams in the league have to deal with those types of absences. "We were without a lot of players," he said. "That's just the way it works out in the National Football League, and that had nothing to do with us anyway. Whoever lines up against us every week is who we're going to play against. The next guy comes in and wins games for you or doesn't. I was pretty impressed with Charlie Batch though. I thought he played very well."
*Sunday's opponent, the Denver Broncos, boasts the league's top passing attack and fourth-best offense, and the defense limited Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson to just 53 yards on 19 carries in the Broncos' 26-20 victory. That resume, Harbaugh said, should be more than enough to encourage the Ravens to avoid a letdown. "I just don't see it," he said. "I just don't see any way for that to happen. That's their mindset. We're playing a really good football team. … How can you have a letdown when you're playing somebody like that?"
*Oregon's 52-31 rout of Stanford on Saturday has taken a double toll on Harbaugh, whose brother Jim is the Cardinal's head coach. Per wagers with a pair of Oregon products in defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and rookie tight end Ed Dickson, Harbaugh will have to wear some Ducks gear and pay a buck or two. "I haven't got the jersey yet, and that's why I'm not wearing it right now," Harbaugh said." I'm disappointed in Ed Dickson because I was supposed to have to wear it in the press conference. I have to admit that I didn't work real hard to find him today for that jersey. So I have a feeling on Wednesday, I'll be wearing that Oregon Ducks t-shirt around. And I owe Haloti a few bucks. Haloti opted for the dollar bet. I was a little disappointed, but I thought the Cardinal played with a lot of heart. You've got to give Oregon a lot of credit. That offense is something special. So we'll see how it goes the rest of the year. I'm not conceding anything for the Cardinal."
- John Harbaugh
- Baltimore Ravens
- Oregon Ducks
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Denver Broncos
- Joe Flacco
- Ray Rice
- Ed Dickson
- Cam Cameron
- Tennessee Titans
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Jared Gaither
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh
- Mike Tomlin
- Anquan Boldin
- Charlie Batch
- William Gay
- Chris Johnson (football, running back)
- Paul Kruger
- Cory Redding