A certain AC/DC song came to mind with 12 seconds remaining in this evening’s game, seeing head coach John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens offense line up after scoring a touchdown that brought his team to within one point of the home team at 20-19. He was going to go for two points to try to win the game then and now, rather than playing for overtime.
It got a little bit less like he had the biggest balls of them all after he acknowledged after the game that he just felt like they didn’t have enough cornerbacks left to defend the field after Marlon Humphrey got injured. But nevertheless, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t caught off-guard by it—even though he did use a timeout to get the right personnel on the field.
“They aggressively play analytics. From that standpoint, they’re predictable”, Tomlin said after the game when he was asked if he was surprised by Harbaugh’s decision to attempt a two-point conversion in that scenario. “They were coming from behind and all of that. Analytical equations help people come to decisions we’re familiar with”.
The Ravens attempted to get a pass out into the flat to Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, with whom quarterback Lamar Jackson has had a better rapport than anybody else throughout his young career thus far. Pressure from outside linebacker T.J. Watt forced him to push the throw just a bit wide, and the tight end could not tip the pass to himself, the ball falling to the ground. He undoubtedly scores if they connect.
“We start with the premise in two-point football, and there’s no secret, so I don’t care about sharing it. People are not going to run it down there”, Tomlin said later in his post-game press conference when asked why he showed a zero blitz on the play. “We start with that premise”.
True to form, if you look over Tomlin’s own history of two-point conversion attempts, it’s damn near all passing plays. And they had just connected on one the previous drive, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finding his own young tight end, Pat Freiermuth, for the difference-maker that put them up by seven, rather than six, and requiring Baltimore to score eight for the win, rather than just a touchdown and an extra point attempt.
It was actually the Steelers’ first successful two-point conversion all season, and was a great play call, of which there seemed to be many in the fourth quarter, as the offensive suddenly came alive—no doubt helped by the Ravens’ banged up secondary.