Unfortunately, the Ravens and Broncos won’t play again until next season at the earliest. Unless they meet in the playoffs. Regardless of how the game would go, it would be worth the price of admission to witness the interaction between Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and Denver coach Vic Fangio.
On Monday, Fangio called Harbaugh’s decision not to try to gain yardage on the last snap of a game the Ravens led by 16 points “kind of bullshit,” adding this: “I just know how they operate. That’s just their mode of operation there. Player safety is secondary.”
Making Fangio’s comments more biting is the fact that Fangio worked for John Harbaugh in 2009, before joining Jim at Stanford in 2010 and following him to the 49ers.
“I mean, I thought we were on good terms,” Harbaugh told reporters on Monday when asked about Fangio’s comments. “We had a nice chat before the game. Known each other for a long time. But I promise you, I’m not gonna give that insult one second thought. What’s meaningful to us might not be meaningful to them. Their concerns are definitely not our concerns. And, you know, we didn’t expect to get the ball back, you know? But I had already decided — we decided — that if we got the ball back, we were gonna try to get the yards. And we got it back with three seconds left. So you’re throwing the ball in the end zone with 10 seconds left, I don’t know that there’s a 16-point touchdown that’s gonna be possible right there. So, you know, that didn’t have anything to do with winning the game. So like I said what’s meaningful to us might not be meaningful to them, and we’re not gonna concern ourselves with that.”
Harbaugh makes a good point; the chances of scoring, getting a two-point conversion, recovering an onside kick, scoring another touchdown, and getting another two-point conversion were far closer to none than slim. The Broncos may have been trying to get some reps for Drew Lock. Or maybe they just didn’t bother to think that it made sense to take a knee and call it a day.
Regardless, the game came down to Baltimore with a 16-point lead, three seconds, left, and a decision to make: kneel or try to gain yardage? Harbaugh decided to gain yardage so that the Ravens could match a 44-year old record, set by the Steelers from 1974-77.
Maybe Harbaugh wouldn’t care if it wasn’t a Pittsburgh record. Maybe he shouldn’t care either way.
Indeed, this isn’t DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. This is a record that, frankly, I didn’t even know about until the Ravens went out of their way to match it.
Ultimately, the Ravens had every right within the confines of the rules to try to run a play. And to assume the risk of an unnecessary injury to the 11 players who were on the field. And to expose quarterback Lamar Jackson to potential injury by having him run the ball one last time. (It would be interesting to know whether Harbaugh would acknowledge that Jackson shouldn’t have run the ball and/or shouldn’t have even been in the game at that point.)
The irony (I never know if I’m using that properly) of Harbaugh’s decision is that, in a meaningless 2019 game to cap a 14-2 regular season after the top seed in the AFC had been clinched, he rested his starters. And the starters were flat in the divisional round game, arguably due to the passage of three weeks after their last reps of consequence.
But at least the backups kept alive the 100-yard rushing streak, with Gus Edwards alone getting more than 130 yards in a 28-10 win over the Steelers.