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Harbaugh defends playing Flacco late vs. Rams

One of the few criticisms the Ravens have encountered after their 37-7 thumping of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday was the decision to have quarterback Joe Flacco run the offense in the last 3 minutes, 10 seconds of the game.

Keeping Flacco in a game that had already been decided might put the franchise quarterback at risk to a season-ending injury, but coach John Harbaugh said during his weekly briefing Monday that allowing Flacco to play with reserves like offensive linemen Bryan Mattison and Jah Reid, wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss and running back Anthony Allen could provide benefits in the long run.

“We did replace as many guys as we could,” Harbaugh began. “You only get so many guys in pro football. All the guys that went in, went in except for [rookie quarterback] Tyrod [Taylor]. And after thinking about it, I think we did the right thing. I don’t know what you gain by a quarterback going in a situation and handing off three times, taking a knee twice, and facing one third-and-11. To me, there is more to be gained by the guys that did go in – the two offensive linemen, the running back, the wide receivers being with the quarterback that, in the event of an injury, they’re most likely to be playing with. Jah Reid jumped. He flinched and took a five-yard penalty. Well, I don’t know how many flinches Jah Reid’s got, but if he’s playing, maybe that’s one out of the way that he won’t have when it really counts perhaps. Tandon Doss was on a route there and Joe Flacco was throwing it to him. So that’s one bit of game experience that those guys wouldn’t have with Joe for when it really counts. So that’s really the point.

“The other thing is, the argument about getting Joe hurt, well, I’d like to see the history on quarterbacks getting hurt at the end of games like that,” Harbaugh continued. “I don’t think there is much. But it’s always a concern. But all of our players are a concern. We could’ve not thrown the pass on third down[-and-10 that resulted in a defensive pass interference call]. We could’ve run the ball and ran the punt team out there, too. We weren’t trying to run up the score at all. We were trying to get a first down so that our defense and punt team didn’t have to take the field. That’s the idea. Then we took a knee. We could run our punt team out there and put our punter at risk, and they had just run into our kicker two plays before. So anybody’s at risk in a situation like that or anytime you’re taking snaps.”

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