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John Harbaugh is to blame for yesterday’s loss, but not for the reason you think

Giving your franchise quarterback a chance to win the game is reasonable; other decisions made were not.

Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With four minutes and 15 seconds left in the Baltimore Ravens’ Week 4 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, their offense had the ball on Buffalo’s two yard line.

Tied 20-20, head coach John Harbaugh, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense went for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal instead of kicking a field goal. Then, Jackson threw an interception in the endzone to give the Bills the ball at their own 20 yard line. With over four minutes left and all three timeout in hand, Buffalo marched down the field to Baltimore’s one-yard line, drained the clock, and kicked the game-winning field goal.

Game over — the Ravens lose.

The Ravens have now blown a three-score lead for the second time this season in back-to-back home games. They’ve now lost five consecutive one-score home games. They are only the second team in NFL history to lose multiple games after leading by 17 or more points in their first four games. This is not Baltimore Ravens football. The first game lost against Miami was pointed squarely at the defensive side of the ball. Today is about the coaches, but not for the goal-line decision.

Baltimore looked like the best team in the NFL after the following quarter. The Ravens led 14-3 after forcing two turnovers, stifling the Bills offense and looking dominate Jackson behind center. Their momentum continued into the second quarter where they scored two field goals to go up 20-3. Then, it fell apart.

After four straight scoring drives to open the game, the Ravens would go the rest of the game without scoring. Drops in the rain and penalties seemed to be the main reason for drives stalling. However, considering how successful the ground game looked for the first time this season, their inability to run the clock down was puzzling. They had a 17-point lead; running down the clock and limiting Bills possessions should have been the goal. With the success of the run game, the Ravens should have been able to put away the game.

Coming out of halftime up 20-10, the Ravens offense proceeded to squander the lead. Two punts and a tipped ball interception put the Ravens on the back foot. After their defense finally managed to force Buffalo to punt for the first time in the second half, the Ravens had the ball on the their own five yard line with the game tied 20-20. Thus ensued the 14-play, nine-and-a-half minute drive that ended with a Jackson interception at the goal line on fourth down.

Jackson is a former MVP quarterback, who has been playing already at an MVP-caliber level this year. Fans, analysts and many others are clamoring for the Baltimore front office to pay him record-setting money. I will never fault any head coach that puts the ball into the hands of a player as talented as that to help put a game away from two yards away. Giving him a chance to win the game was a perfectly reasonable call.

The defense themselves played admirably. Holding the Bills to 23 points in an entire game is good enough effort to give your offense a chance to win. However, remember this is a defense that gave up 28 fourth-quarter points to the Miami Dolphins just two weeks ago. The so-far anemic Patriots offense consistently moved the ball against them last week and they were only miraculously saved by three fourth-quarter turnovers.

Still, Harbaugh’s decision did not feel like one that was due to a lack of confidence in his defense, rather just extreme confidence in his franchise quarterback.

So, this loss isn’t on the fourth down decision, nor is it on the defense for holding one of the best offenses in the league to 23 points. You can’t even wholly blame the offense, who looked so good to start the game. Instead, we should be questioning choices made by the coaching staff during the entirety of the game.

During the Ravens’ final drive, Harbaugh chose to challenge a close spot that would have given them a first down. They lost the challenge and proceeded to go for it anyways on fourth and inches, getting the first down while wasting a time out. If a timeout was to be used, why not use it before the fourth down goal line play?

When Buffalo drove down the field for the game winning score, there was a moment with 1:53 left on the clock where the defense wasn’t on the same page. As Devin Singletary ran the ball, most of the Ravens defense let him pass, practically trying to push him into the endzone in order to give the offense time to score. Instead, Odafe Oweh came in screaming across the field to tackle Singletary two yards short of the goal line. With a new set of downs, the Bills kneeled the ball, took the rest of the time off the clock and kicked the field goal.

Cornerback Marcus Peters clearly had some issues with Harbaugh. Just before the game winning field goal attempt by Buffalo, the two were seen yelling at each other on the sideline, cultivating with Peters throwing his helmet and having to be held back. There was some sort of breakdown amongst this team on the final drive.

It was Harbaugh’s job to fix the team after the disastrous fourth quarter meltdown against Miami. They seemingly bounced back against the Patriots but once again find themselves blowing leads and being an ineffective team during the second half of games. The Ravens still seems to be picking up the pieces from last year despite being much healthier.

After practice changes, a new medical staff and a new defensive coordinator, at the end of the day, Harbaugh is responsible for the perception around this team. He is responsible for another disappointing defeat and he is responsible for getting this group back to playing true Baltimore Ravens football — something that seems have been missing for over a year now.