The Baltimore Ravens finished the regular season with an 8-9 record, their first losing record since the 2015 season. They ended the year on a six-game losing streak, five of which involved quarterback Lamar Jackson getting injured or not playing at all.
That sixth game—or rather the first of the sixth—was tied to another reason altogether. Head coach John Harbaugh, after losing another cornerback due to injury late in the game, decided to go for a two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game with a 20-19 score against the Pittsburgh Steelers rather than play for overtime.
He didn’t get it. And they didn’t get it yet again, two weeks later, in a 31-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers, in a game that all but ensured that they would not be making the postseason. Losing twice in one season on two-point conversion attempts at the end of regulation is tough. But he has no regrets.
“We had, probably, a 50-50 shot there, and would we have had a 50-50 shot in overtime against some of those quarterbacks we were playing? I don’t know”, he told reporters recently during his year-end press conference. “But that’s the choice that you made. Having made them now, not knowing what happened, I think I would have done them again – after thinking about it”.
As mentioned, the Ravens, who had already been severely hindered by injuries, just lost starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey to a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter against the Steelers, after already being down two other starters in the secondary. At the time, after the game, Harbaugh essentially said that he didn’t think they could win with the secondary they had available.
It’s worth noting that they did nearly convert. Jackson just narrowly missed tight end Mark Andrews for a walk-in score, though pressure from T.J. Watt influenced that misaligned pass. The second attempt against the Packers had Tyler Huntley playing quarterback, again, missing to Andrews—narrowly.
“We’ll continue to be aggressive, but we’re never going to be irresponsibly aggressive. You’re going to try to be aggressive in ways”, Harbaugh said regarding his plans under similar circumstances in the future. He also said that he’s not going to stop taking surveys of his players about what they want to do—but that he always knew all along what he was going to call.
“I knew what I was going to do. I already knew I was going to go for it, but some of that is you build a little consensus around what you’re doing, you get some belief”, he said, though he acknowledged he might have reconsidered if he got a negative reaction.
“But you do want to get a little buy-in, a little belief, a little, ‘Hey, let’s do it, let’s get fired up, let’s go make this happen’”, he added, characterizing the ‘poll taking’ as a motivational tool. “I think that’s part of the leadership piece”.
I don’t believe the Steelers under Mike Tomlin have ever gone for two under such a circumstance, but they have passed up a game-tying field goal attempt to go for a touchdown to give them the win. I’m not sure I would have the fortitude to make that call to pass up an extra point to send a game to overtime when my kicker is Justin Tucker.