BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh defended his decision to go for a touchdown instead of the go-ahead field goal late in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills and downplayed the emotional sideline outburst with cornerback Marcus Peters that ensued afterward.
“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 can happen is you’re in overtime,” Harbaugh said.
While every player who spoke afterward supported Harbaugh’s decision, Peters showed his displeasure by shouting at him on the sideline as the Bills lined up for the winning field goal. After the two exchanged words, Peters had to be pulled away by an assistant coach, and he threw his helmet in frustration. Peters had left the locker room by the time reporters entered.
“Emotions run high,” Harbaugh said. “We’re on the same page, he and I. We have a great relationship; we have an honest relationship. I love him, I hope he still loves me; we’ll see. I’m a Marcus Peters guy.”
After failing to hold a 20-3 lead, the Ravens faced a fourth down from the Bills’ 2-yard line with the game tied at 20 and 4:15 left. Rather than attempt a 19-yard field goal, Baltimore put the ball in the hands of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who missed an open receiver and threw an interception.
Buffalo then marched 77 yards on 12 plays to set up the winning, 21-yard field goal as time expired.
“[If] you kick a field goal there, now it’s not a three-down game anymore, it’s a four-down game,” Harbaugh said. “You’re putting them out there, you’re putting your defense at a disadvantage because they’ve got four downs to convert all the way down the field and a chance to again score seven, and then you lose the game on a touchdown.”
Harbaugh then added, “It didn’t turn out that way, unfortunately, and we lost the game. So, hindsight, you could take the points, but if you look at it analytically, understand why we did it.”
According to ESPN’s win probability model, the Ravens had a 73.5% win probability by going for the touchdown and a 69.7% win probability by kicking a field goal.
“I was fine with it because, if we had executed that, we would have scored a touchdown and there would be no question,” Jackson said. “Nobody would be disappointed. Next time, we’ll get it.”
On that fourth down, Jackson didn’t see wide receiver Devin Duvernay, who was so wide-open in the right corner of the end zone that he was waving his arms.
Asked what he saw on that play, Jackson said, “Tall defensive lineman with his hands up. I was trying to see around him to see where my guys were, but I saw Duvernay late. If I would have seen him right off the bat, that would have been a touchdown.”
This marked Jackson’s first career interception on fourth down (out of 25 pass attempts).
The Ravens’ defense made an ill-timed mistake, too. Baltimore outside linebacker Odafe Oweh tackled running back Devin Singletary at the 3-yard line after players were told to let him score with 1:43 remaining in the game. Buffalo ran down the clock before kicking the winning field goal with three seconds left.
“I mean, we were in the huddle and the call was either strip the ball or let him score,” Oweh said. “I’m trying to strip the ball out. If you watch film, you’ll see it. He fell down. If the call was to let him score, I would have let him score.”
The Ravens became the second team in NFL history to suffer multiple losses after leading by 17 or more points in their first four games of a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The other team was the 2011 Vikings.
In Week 2, the Ravens lost to the Miami Dolphins, 42-38, after leading by 21 points in the fourth quarter. Two weeks later, Baltimore fell to the Bills after holding a 17-point lead late in the second quarter.
The Ravens (2-2) are confident they will rebound from two of the biggest second-half meltdowns in franchise history.
“I’m a dog. We have a bunch of dogs,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “We’re ready to go. We are going to get better. We’ve been here before.”