The Ravens managed to squander a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter during a 20-17 overtime win Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals, raising questions about their clock management strategy.
Despite holding an advantage on the scoreboard, the Ravens ran no-huddle plays eight times with another no-huddle play nullified due to a penalty. They frequently snapped the football with as much as 10, 12 or 15 seconds remaining on the play clock instead of allowing the clock to run down into single digits.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh defended the clock management approach on Monday.
“I thought that was good,” Harbaugh said. “You have to make a decision really when you want to go in your four-minute mode and when you want to milk the clock completely down. When you go into the four-minute mode, you change your rhythm. When you get out of your rhythm sometimes you do things like jumping offsides.
“They know the snap count because you run the clock down and they can get off on your snap count. They know when you are going to snap the ball, so they get a great takeoff and it’s much harder to execute under those circumstances.”
The Ravens’ defense allowed fourth-quarter touchdown passes to running back Giovani Bernard and wide receiver A.J. Green, who scored on a tipped Hail Mary pass deflected to him at the end of regulation by strong safety James Ihedigbo.
However, the Ravens’ inability to move the football was just as costly. The Ravens ran the ball nine times in the fourth quarter, but gained just 24 yards, an average of 2.6 yards a carry.
During the Ravens’ three possessions in the fourth quarter, they had just four first downs and a time of possession of 6 minutes, 38 seconds.
“The best clock manager is converting first downs,” Harbaugh said. “When you convert first downs, that’s when you’re going to run the most time off the clock. So, you’ve got to balance that with rhythm. We decided we weren’t going to go on the clock in the four-minute mode with 10 or 11 minutes left in the game.
“It just wouldn’t be smart. So, we were taking the thing down under 15, 12 and 10 seconds throughout the fourth quarter. To take it all the way down, you’d make it tough on your offense to convert first downs.”
Still no playing time for Scott
Since the Ravens signed former Bengals running back Bernard Scott to a one-year, $715,000 contract, he's been inactive each game.
The veteran runner has yet to be active for a game since running backs Ray Rice (hip flexor) and Bernard Pierce (hamstring) have been healthier lately. Harbaugh didn't rule out a potential role for Scott going forward, but made no guarantees.
"Progressed very well and could be active in the coming weeks," Harbaugh said. "We just have to make a decision to activate three runners and balance that with other needs. Who would be the other person deactivated? That would be a decision that we’d have to make game plan-wise and that sort of thing.”
Nose tackle Haloti Ngata’s left knee injury isn’t regarded as serious. “We didn’t have anything that looks to be major injury-wise,” Harbaugh said. … Defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson was active Sunday and recorded his first NFL sack as third-round rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams was an apparent healthy scratch. “We’ll play the best player,” Harbaugh said. “DeAngelo has been practicing extremely well the last two or three weeks, and he earned the right to play. He made the most of it.” … Harbaugh was reminded of President Barack Obama stating his allegiance toward his hometown Chicago Bears during the Ravens’ White House visit in June. “We appreciate the president and the fact that he’s a huge football fan and sports fan,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure he’ll be watching this game very closely, and we’ll do our best to disappoint him.”