The Ravens took a tough loss to the Bills at M&T Bank Stadium, and there’s one play call that has the NFL world debating the merits of.
Buffalo came back from a 20-3 deficit in the second quarter to tie the game at 20 heading into the fourth quarter. Baltimore had the ball from their own five-yard line with 13:38 left in the final quarter. It marched all the way down to Buffalo’s two-yard line with less than five minutes left in the game.
The Ravens faced a fourth down and decided to go for it rather than call a field goal. Lamar Jackson was pressured out of the pocket, and Jordan Poyer picked off a desperation pass. Josh Allen and the Bills drove down the field and the clock to hit a game-winning field goal at the buzzer.
All eyes were on John Harbaugh and his choice to go for it on fourth down, and the Baltimore head coach addressed the call after the game.
“Well, I felt like it gave us the best chance to win the game because seven (points), the worst that happens is if they go down the field and score — and I think we’ll get them stopped — but if they go down the field and score a touchdown, the worst thing that happens is you’re in overtime,” Harbaugh told reporters, per team video. “But you kick a field goal there, it’s not a three-down game anymore, it’s a four-down game. You’re going out there, you’re putting your defense at a disadvantage because they got four downs to convert all the way down the field and a chance to score seven, and you lose a game on a touchdown.
“The other thing, you think you’re going to get the ball at the two-yard line. We’re very confident in our defense, defense’s ability to stop them down there on the two-yard line, so you get them backed up if we don’t get it. It didn’t turn out that way, unfortunately, and we lost the game. So hindsight, you can take the points, but if you look at it analytically, understand why we did it.”
Harbaugh’s comments are not going to please any side of the aisle. If you’re on the “take the points” crowd, the Bills would have driven down and scored a touchdown making it a four-point loss for the Ravens — they were at the Baltimore three-yard line when they brought Tyler Bass for the field goal. For the analytics crowd, the failure of the call can have an effect on players, as seen by cornerback Marcus Peters, who got into it with his coach.
The decision is not an uncommon one for the Ravens. They were tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the best fourth-down conversion rate in 2021, going 18-for-27 (66.7%), according to Stat Muse. They were 1-for-2 in Week 4.
Baltimore will have to hope things turn around in Week 5 when it plays the Cincinnati Bengals.