Ravens’ John Harbaugh Explains Bizarre Clock Management In Loss

'We had the timeouts worked right'


Jan 16, 2023

An NFL team will typically want as much time to score as possible when trailing in a playoff game. Apparently, that wasn’t the case with John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.

The Ravens, trailing 24-17, started their final drive of the game at the Bengals 46-yard line with 3:14 left in the fourth quarter. Things started well for Baltimore, which pushed to the Cincinnati 17-yard line with over one minute left in the game.

But then, the Ravens let 33 seconds tick off the clock before running their next play.

Why? Let Harbaugh, who had two timeouts to spare, explain.

“We wanted to save the timeouts for the red zone,” Harbaugh told reporters postgame, per team-provided video. “The thing that killed us was the holding penalty. That knocked us back. The idea was, we wanted to keep those timeouts to throw the ball. So, we tried to pop a run there, we were gonna call a timeout after that, and we would still have a run/pass option. We wanted to score without giving the ball back. We think we’re going to get in the red zone, we think it’s going to be a certain number of plays, and we’re going to work right down to the end of the game. Rather than score with 30, 35 seconds left, you give them a chance to go kick a field goal at the end.

“So, I think we played it right. Didn’t work out in the sense that after that, we had incomplete passes. If you complete the passes, you get the ball in the red zone, you call the timeouts. So, I think that at an elementary level, you can say, ‘Ah (expletive), they should have used the timeouts.’ But we had the timeouts worked right.”

Following the decision to let all of that time lapse, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley threw an incomplete pass to tight end Mark Andrews with 34 seconds left. Then, Baltimore was called for holding, which took the ball back to the 27-yard line. Two incompletions to Andrews later and there were just eight seconds left in the game, leaving time for a nearly caught desperation pass that fell incomplete.

It was a puzzling display of clock management from Harbaugh, who perhaps was wishfully thinking when he decided not to use his timeout. Luckily for him, he may have his mistake forgotten thanks to the insane play that gave the Bengals the lead.

Thumbnail photo via Albert Cesare/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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