Ravens’ defensive breakdowns ‘will get fixed,’ John Harbaugh says; why penalty challenges would have been ‘wasted’

"It wasn't a field position game, it was a possession game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said about using analytics to decide to try a 2-point conversion.

The Ravens entered Sunday’s Week 3 showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs with the NFL’s second-ranked defense. In a 33-28 loss at Arrowhead Stadium, the unit looked nothing like it.

After allowing 503 yards of offense to the high-powered Chiefs, only the 10th time in franchise history that the Ravens have given up 500 yards in a game, the defense is tied for No. 16 in the league in yards allowed per game (350.7), as of Sunday night. Last year’s top-ranked unit allowed just 290 per game.


A week after Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray gave the Ravens trouble through the air, Chiefs star and reigning Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes finished 27-for-37 for 374 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. The Ravens’ highly paid secondary, which is missing cornerbacks Tavon Young (neck) and Jimmy Smith (knee), has struggled mightily the past two games. Only five teams have a worse pass defense (290.3 yards allowed per game).

“We’ve had breakdowns two weeks in a row in different coverages, and that’s not good,” coach John Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Monday. "That’s what costs you big games when you’re playing good teams who are as explosive as they are to make those plays. We just can’t have it. Our guys know it. Now, you’re not going to be perfect. I mean, the game is played. It’s competitive. It’s tough. The heat of battle, there’s a lot of things going on. ...


“That’s why we chase perfection as much as we can and work hard at it, try to put guys in position and teach in a way that you can learn it and also set it up in a way that when the bullets are flying, they’re able to make good choices. So that’s on us as coaches. We work really hard at that, and we’ve got to do a better job with that to not have those big plays. I mean, big plays are bad. They shouldn’t happen to our football team. We’re not the type of team that gives up big plays. And we’re not happy about that, at all. And that will get fixed. There’s no question. Period. It will get fixed.”

‘A wasted challenge’

When cornerback Brandon Carr’s third-quarter interception was negated because of a questionable pass-interference penalty on safety Tony Jefferson, Harbaugh wanted to challenge the play, an option available to him for the first time this year.

But even if it was a “bad call,” as he described it, “that’s not what gets it overturned.”

“They make the call they make and you live with it,” he said. "That’s the way it’s always been with judgment calls. But if I don’t think it should be called, I know by every single one of those [pass-interference penalties] that’s been challenged so far in the preseason and the regular season that it will not get overturned, 100%. ... It would have been a wasted challenge, 100% proven by the record to date.

“Not one of those where there’s been contact. Whether you think he’s playing the ball or not, whether you think the contact impacts the receiver or not, not one of those has been overturned by New York [where NFL officials decide on challenges]. So what we would have been doing about challenging that is throwing away 40 seconds, and those 40 seconds were going to be important that game.”

Harbaugh expressed frustration with two other plays. A holding call on wide receiver Willie Snead IV during running back Gus Edwards’ 45-yard carry in the second quarter was “tough,” he said.

“You’d like to see them called both ways,” he said. "That’s what you’re looking for. You’d like to see consistency as a coach.”

Later, an offensive-pass-interference penalty on rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin, who was deemed to have started blocking beyond the line of scrimmage while quarterback Lamar Jackson’s fourth-quarter pass to wide receiver Chris Moore was still in the air, negated an 11-yard gain and first down. Harbaugh said that “it would’ve been nice” if an official had deemed the pass a lateral, which he believed it was, but that there was no camera angle available that would’ve helped overturn the call.

Humphrey’s absence

Top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who played every defensive snap in the Ravens’ Week 2 win against the Cardinals, was sidelined for much of the second quarter Sunday, when the Chiefs outscored them 23-0. He returned to action after halftime and played 58 of a possible 68 defensive snaps.

Asked after the game about his inactive period, Humphrey said, “I had something going on there.” Harbaugh on Monday said Humphrey had missed time for a “physical reason” but did not elaborate.

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