The going-for-two discussion will likely become the most annoying debate in sports, usurping reliever usage and Hall-of-Fame credentials. Poor execution is different than a poor decision, and the play-call for the Baltimore Ravens in their 31-30 loss to the Packers was pretty piss-poor. Two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, it was just poor execution, as it wasn’t the best pass from Lamar Jackson. You can’t confuse the two, but that doesn’t absolve John Harbaugh.
But still, this has become Harbaugh’s thing, I guess. He seems pretty intent on proving how big his gut (or other parts) are. I can’t say it doesn’t sit right that you’re asking your backup QB to make a pinpoint throw to win the game. But then I guess asking him to make one play is less of an ask then to come up with one more touchdown drive in overtime. Then again, Tyler Huntley had just authored two touchdown drives to get the Ravens in position to either tie or win the game.
If that’s Harbaugh’s thing, then he should have gone for two when the Ravens got within 31-23. Give yourself two chances to make one conversion. If you’re that confident that you can punch it in, going for two on the previous drive gives you a bigger safety net.
And if you’re in pure terror of Aaron Rodgers having the ball at all, then why aren’t you onside kicking it every time? If you think you have to eliminate possessions Rodgers can have, and you don’t trust your defense to come up with a stop (which they did enough to get the Ravens in position), then go all the way with it.
And even with all that, 42 seconds and one timeout was enough time for Rodgers to drive down for a field goal whether the Ravens were tired or up one. It would be hard, it would be unlikely, but we’ve seen Rodgers do it before.
Kicking the extra point isn’t “playing not to lose.” You can still play aggressively in OT. There are lots of things that can bounce your way in an overtime. A tipped pass, a bad snap, a fumble, a bad call, the idea that going to overtime is an automatic loss is a fallacy. This felt like Harbaugh trying to justify the decision from two weeks ago by making it a personal trait.
A lot of fans and media have been blinded by the “hero” aspect of Harbaugh’s calls. While the Ravens secondary was depleted against Pittsburgh, it was also still against Ben Roethlisberger who can’t throw the ball 12 yards without his shoulder turning into string cheese. But he also had Lamar Jackson in tow then.
Most observers get caught up in the excitement of everything coming down to one play, confusing it for genius, because we like the drama. It’s basically the penalty shootout of the NFL. Everything we love about the sport condensed into one play that takes a few seconds. It’s a rush.
Still, Harbaugh came up empty both times, and the Ravens might miss the playoffs because of it. Maybe he and the Ravens can comfort themselves that they were willing to risk it all on a game of pitch and toss, if we were to Kipling it. Somehow I think they’ll be breathing words about their loss, though.
But unlike Kipling’s pitch and toss, this wasn’t binary. There were options. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it all that progressive.