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What's Up With Onsides Kick Decisions Around NFL?

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Two weeks ago when the Baltimore Ravens were trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7 with a bit over two minutes left in their game, head coach John Harbaugh decided to go for the onsides kick rather than try to pin the opponent deep in their own territory and give the defense the chance to hold them and give the offense the ball back with time to drive down the field for a game-winning field goal.

By now everyone knows the Jaguars got the ball as the kick did not go the required ten yards. Jacksonville kicked their fourth FG of the game and the Ravens, now needing a touchdown to win, could not respond and lost 12-7. Harbaugh was questioned about the decision and not only did he feel at the time it was the right decision, he still felt the same way the next day after reviewing the tape. Or at least he said so to the media.

Fast forward ahead to yesterday's game where the New England Patriots trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-17 with just over two minutes remaining in their game (sound familiar?).

The Patriots also tried an onsides kick that failed miserably, also not going the necessary ten yards. Ultimately, the Steelers won the game 25-17, but it was obvious that New England head coach Bill Belichick did not trust his defense to stop Pittsburgh's offense had they kicked the ball deep instead of trying the high-risk onsides kick.

Does this mean that Harbaugh did not trust the Ravens defense as well? No one would ever confuse the Pats defense for the Ravens as much as they would never confuse the Ravens offense for the Pats. However, the decisions to stay away from giving the other team's offense the ball and put the pressure on the defense to get a three-and-out seems to be the biggest reason to not only kick it deep, but also try the low-percentage conversion of an onsides kick.

In the Steelers-Patriots game, the announcers felt it was a very poor decision, placing the blame partly on the head coach, but also realizing New England's defense had not stopped Pittsburgh's offense too often all game. That was not the case in the Ravens loss to the Jaguars last week. However, regardless of your opinion on either or both decisions, one thing ended up perfectly clear. The result was not what the team who unsuccessfully attempted the onsides kick wanted it to be, which should be a lesson to them as well as others when put in the same position again.