Harbaugh says statistics back him up on onside kick decision

Some have questioned John Harbaugh's decision to go for an onside kick late in Monday night's loss to the Jaguars.

Some like yours truly.

But in the face of some criticism, Harbaugh is standing by that call, saying he would attempt the onside kick again if he was in the same spot down the road, adding that statistics kept by the team support such a decision.

"Now that I've had some time to think about it, I'm even more sure that it was the right thing," Harbaugh said yesterday. "I think you can go both ways on it, but we had a chance to do a probability study on it. The probabilities are for kicking the onside kick. That's given a 21 percent onside kick recovery rate."

Harbaugh said that even if kicker Billy Cundiff had been able to force a touchback had the coaching staff called for Cundiff to kick it deep (an outcome which would have essentially given the Ravens three timeouts), the statistics the Ravens looked at still supported the onside kick.

The coaching staff's confidence in their particular play design on the onside kick also led Harbaugh to feel that was the best course of action.

"I think it's fair to say you can do it either way," Harbaugh said. "I felt strongly about the onside kick, and the main reason was because I thought we were going to get it. So you can take that 21 percent and make it 50 percent-plus in my mind, because I liked our scheme on that play. And if you look at the play, we had them outnumbered at the point of attack. If that ball goes 10 yards, which is not asking too much, then we're going to recover that ball. Now we've got the ball with two minutes (and) two timeouts plus the two-minute warning to go from the 45-50 into close field goal range to give us the best chance to make a kick and win the game.

"I thought about it, I felt strongly about it then and I feel even more strongly about it now that it gave us the best chance to win. But I also acknowledge you can definitely make the case the other way, and if everything works out the other way, you have a chance to win the other way, too."

Harbaugh seems to feel that the Ravens would have definitely recovered the onside kick had the ball gone a full 10-plus yards, but there's really no way of knowing what would have happened in that situation. The ball could have bounced out of bounds, it could have gone through the hands of a Ravens player or it could have easily been recovered by the Jaguars, even if they were outnumbered on that side of the field.

You've got to appreciate Harbaugh's belief in his players and the scheme implemented by special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, but Harbaugh can't forget that he's got the NFL's top-ranked defense, either.

The onside kick might be the right call at times, but in other instances, kicking the ball deep and letting the Ravens' defense do what they do best could be the way to go, as well.

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