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John Harbaugh on fourth-and-1 call: 'I thought we'd get it'

Ray Rice’s amazing 29-yard catch-and-run on fourth down-and-29 and the Ravens’ eventual 16-13 overtime win against the San Diego Chargers Sunday overshadowed a few miscues such as the offense’s ineptness in the first half, the unit’s inability to create a consistent pocket for quarterback Joe Flacco and some inopportune penalties.

Another gaffe that didn’t end up hurting the Ravens was the ill-fated decision to go for it on fourth down-and-1 on the Chargers’ 14-yard line with 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Rookie running back Bernard Pierce was stuffed for no gain and instead of having rookie kicker Justin Tucker attempt a 32-yard field goal to make the score 13-6, the team still trailed San Diego by 10 points.

Hindsight being 20/20, coach John Harbaugh sounded as if he had no regrets about trying to get the first down.

“The thing that made me want to go for it was, I thought we’d get it,” Harbaugh said Monday during his weekly news conference. “We knew we had to kick a field goal, and we knew we had to score a touchdown. We knew we needed two scores if a field goal was going to be part of it, and we knew that that was going to be the case. If it had been more than fourth-and-a-foot – and it was really six inches – I probably would have kicked the field right there and get the one score under our belt. The fact that it was six inches, we all felt real strongly that we were going to get that done. My personal philosophy as a coach is you give your guys a chance to make plays. They won’t always make the play, but you can’t run scared. I trust our players, and I think most of the time, the vast majority of the time, our guys will come through and make those plays, and that’s pretty good evidence when you look at the rest of the game. So I’ll continue to trust our guys.”

Harbaugh also said that Flacco had a number of options that he could have gone with at the line of scrimmage.

“He had certain options in there, and he made a decision to go with that play because it was a called play within the choices that he had,” Harbaugh said. “They did a great job of moving a guy and beating us on the backside and defending it. There were other options he had there. Sure, he could have gone with them, but you can second guess that all day long. It’s part of our offense, and it’s what we want to continue to be. We call and run plenty of stuff, but you can’t just be a call-and-run-it offense 100 percent of the time in this league and not beat your head against the wall. So I think that’s how we need to play, especially with a veteran quarterback who knows what he is doing.”

Finally, Harbaugh addressed the decision to have Pierce – instead of Rice – take the handoff on that critical fourth down.

“We [were] rotating both those guys in,” Harbaugh said. “I like Bernard Pierce. Bernard Pierce is a really good player. We’re not going to shy away from Bernard Pierce carrying the ball. I’d like to see him carry the ball more and more. I think those two guys complement each other really well. The better Bernard gets, the more he is going to play. [He is a] powerful, explosive, hard-running guy. He is a good choice for that.”

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