Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has gotten a lot of heat the last couple days for his play-calling with the Ravens holding a fourth quarter lead over the Patriots on Sunday.
Joe Flacco spent much of the fourth quarter and the subsequent overtime period checking down to dump off passes and throwing quick routes underneath, and Ray Rice continuously got the call to run into a New England front-seven which tightened up as the game went along.
Many (including yours truly) have called Cameron's play-calling late in the game conservative, but head coach John Harbaugh says he doesn't see things that way.
"I think if you understand the coverage that they're playing, we had good plays called," Harbaugh said. "I mean, we had downfield routes called against it. The checkdown is always really good against that if the downfield routes don't express themselves. And we had runs called against it, which you like against a three-man-rush - especially some draws. So, I don't think there was anything conservative about it in that sense."
The problem, Harbaugh said, wasn't with the play-calling, but with the execution on the field and the lack of preparation by the coaching staff.
"I don't think we did a good enough job as coaches explaining to our players exactly how to attack it," Harbaugh said. "I mean, we look at this thing, that's what we do all morning, we look at it and we say, 'You know what? What can we do better as coaches and players to solve that, that issue?' Here's a team that had two weeks to prepare for us. They had some pretty good ideas against us. They jammed our tight ends up pretty good. Those are all things, I think if we look at it really carefully, we grow from."
The only argument that I can make with those comments is that the Ravens had done a good job moving the ball downfield against the Patriots' defense through the first three quarters.
Flacco had looked to Derrick Mason along the sideline, Anquan Boldin had a touchdown grab where he out-fought a New England defensive back on his route and gained separation down the field, and Todd Heap had done a nice job working over the middle of the field. Except, of course, when he almost got his head taken off by Pats safety Brandon Meriweather.
The Patriots might have changed their coverage a bit, using more three-man rushes with two-deep coverage and dropping the middle linebacker deep down the field. But the Ravens have worked against that coverage before, and they need to be able to find a way to continue pushing the ball downfield and stretching things out.
"There are ways to attack that [coverage]," Harbaugh said. "Routes, they come open a little bit later against the three-man rush, and you've got to be able to give those routes a little bit of time to get open. So, I don't think there's anything with the routes we were covering. I thought our guys ran good routes and all that.
"It's just something that we need to grow and learn to attack a little bit better. There wasn't anything that we haven't seen before. We see it from our team in practice a lot. But obviously, we could have gotten the ball downfield better there."