Late in the fourth quarter Sunday, with the Chicago Bears facing fourth-and-6, trailing 9-7 and not quite in field-goal range, the Ravens’ defense lined up as if a blitz were imminent.
Then left tackle Jason Peters flinched, the Bears moved back 5 yards, and both units regrouped inside Soldier Field. Chicago came back in a shotgun formation with three wide receivers. The Ravens got even more aggressive. This time, they showed a “Cover 0″ blitz before the snap — no deep-safety help, man-to-man coverage across the board, everyone else blitzing.
Their pressure got to quarterback Andy Dalton, but a split-second too late. Just before rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh smacked Dalton, a hit that officials deemed to be roughing the passer, the Ravens’ longtime AFC North nemesis floated a pass down the right sideline to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who was 4 yards clear of cornerback Chris Westry. His 49-yard touchdown gave the Bears a 13-9 lead with 1:41 remaining.
Even after second-year quarterback Tyler Huntley led the Ravens to a go-ahead touchdown on the subsequent drive, all but sealing a 16-13 win, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s play call remained heavily criticized. Harbaugh on Monday said the aggressiveness was intentional.
“Sometimes a quick outcome is OK either way,” he said. “You can go back to the end of the [Cleveland] Browns game last year, when they went down the field and scored so quick. It was better that they scored quick than scoring slow [in the Ravens’ eventual 47-42 win]. Sometimes a quick death is better because, you know, you’re not dead yet. And we weren’t dead yet after that play, which is the good news.”
Harbaugh said Martindale “stuck with the game plan,” and noted that the Ravens’ blitzes in similar situations have worked. Harbaugh also said one of the team’s eight pass rushers was “a little late” — safety Brandon Stephens appeared hesitant to breach the pocket — and commended Dalton for making a play.
“The last time that happened, when [Dalton] was with the [Cincinnati] Bengals, we ran out into Tampa 2″ — a zone coverage with two deep safeties — “and it was a fourth-and-12 touchdown,” Harbaugh said, referring to Dalton’s 49-yard pass to wide receiver Tyler Boyd four years ago that knocked the Ravens out of playoff contention. “So this was an all-out, ‘0′ blitz, which we’ve had some success with, and they got it. So they got it, but our guys overcame it.”