Harbaugh: Ravens will be more aggressive on fourth down this year

Not a bad opening weekend for the Harbaughs.

While John’s Ravens were busy crushing the Steelers 35-7, his brother Jim was out in San Francisco, coaching his 49ers to a 33-17 win over their division rival, the Seahawks.

The win marked Jim’s first as an NFL head coach, and it had his proud older brother (who said he was able to catch a bit of the 49ers win after his team had polished off Pittsburgh) gushing a day later.

“That was a great win for Jim,” John Harbaugh said yesterday. “And to be 2-0 as a family is pretty cool. And our nephew, Riley Crean, won his first game as a quarterback; he’s in Bloomington, Indiana. So I guess we’re 3-0.”

Coming out of the Ravens’ stomping of Pittsburgh (I’m running out of terms to describe the beatdown at this point) on Sunday, one of the talking points in Steel Town was the way that the Ravens tried to toss some extra dirt on their rivals’ grave by turning a fake extra point into a two-point conversion and going for a fourth-and-one deep in Steelers territory when Baltimore already led by 22.

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward told reporters after the game that his team wasn’t going to forget the Ravens trying to pile on the points in the second half, and some in Pittsburgh have been somewhat critical of the Ravens’ aggressive play-calling when they were up by more than three touchdowns.

John_Harbaugh-Joe_Flacco-hugging-tall.jpgHarbaugh addressed the two plays yesterday, starting with the decision to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Pittsburgh 8-yard line early in the third quarter. A field goal would have boosted the Ravens’ lead to 25, but Baltimore called for a running play to Ray Rice, which was stopped by the Steelers at the line of scrimmage.

“Sometimes you go with your head, sometimes you go with your heart,” Harbaugh said. “The second decision was probably going with my heart. I felt like we were going to get it. I felt like we could get it, and I thought we could really put the nail in the coffin. (Leading by) 25 is better than 22 ... (but) 29 is better than 25.”

In general, Harbaugh said, he plans to be more aggressive in those type of situations this year, largely because statistics tell him that the potential reward outweighs the risk.

“There have been a lot of studies in this league, when you look at it in terms of going for it on fourth down, and they basically say that most coaches don’t go for it enough,” Harbaugh said. “We do want to be aggressive, and I do have a lot of confidence in our guys. Probably when in doubt, we are probably going to go for it more often than not.”

As for the fake extra point turned two-point conversion, Harbaugh said Pittsburgh’s alignment - which saw eight Steelers lined up on the defensive left side of the line of scrimmage and just three on the right - made that call an easy one to make.

“Their linemen dictated that we do it,” Harbaugh said. “When they put eight guys on one side of the formation and they pressure your protection that way... they are basically asking you to challenge that, and we did. If they’re going to line up like that, then I think you have to run it, and it’s an extra point.”

Some Steelers fans might be upset, feeling the Ravens ran up the score and were showboating at Pittsburgh’s expense, but I will forever fall on the “if you want them to stop scoring, stop them from scoring” side of that argument.

If Pittsburgh was going to allow the Ravens to notch an easy two-point conversion, why would they not, as long as they felt they didn’t want to save that play for later in the season?

I’m not saying a bunch of Steelers players or coaches were publicly complaining about the Ravens unnecessarily piling it on in the second half, but I’ve never been a fan of anyone making that argument. Everyone on that field is a professional, and if one team doesn’t want the other team to beat them too badly, that team should play better.

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