MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Well, Robert Conrad is back on the Baltimore Ravens sideline and up to his familiar old tricks again. Go ahead, knock the battery off his shoulder. I dare you.

Take free points with a Justin Tucker 19-yard field goal and take the lead into the final minutes at home against the Buffalo Bills? That seems to make too much sense. So why would I want to make sense when my analytics card, my macho manness and the absolute zero faith I have in my defense all tell me to go for it on fourth down?

You know the rest. After a Lamar Jackson interception in the end zone, the Bills took the ball at the 25 and ground the remaining 4-plus minutes of the game and then all they needed to do was to kick a field goal, which they did for the 23-20 victory in front of a depressed M&T Bank crowd of over 70,000.

The loss is the fifth straight at home for Baltimore. Read that again: The Ravens have lost five straight dating back to last year’s meltdown season at what was once one of the NFL’s most feared environments for opponents.

Don’t misunderstand, Ravens fans are still loud and enthusiastic, buoyed by their morning-long pregame preparations in the parking lots, but anymore, Harbaugh and his maddening in-game decisions, not to mention that blasted analytics card of his, manage to suck the life out of them by the late fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the crowd, which the Ravens would have counted on once they had taken the 23-20 lead they should have taken, didn’t even stick around for the Bills’ final drive. They knew what would happen and far too many purple seats were in plain view by the time Buffalo even lined up for the game-winning kick.

Who can blame them? They start out strong every home game but lately find themselves sitting in disbelief (although at this point, they shouldn’t; it’s become expectation) and anger. This has gotten so old for Ravens fans; so, so very old.

In the home opener, a 42-38 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Coach Macho Man did the same thing early in the game. With a 7-0 lead and the ball on the Miami 1-yard line, the Ravens ran three poor plays into the middle of its shaky offensive line and failed to move an inch. But rather than take the free points to extend the lead to 10-0 and gain even more momentum, they ran the same play on fourth down and, again, failed to get into the end zone.

In the end, the Dolphins scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns to win the game, yet had Harbaugh kicked a field goal early, the Ravens still had time to set up a potential game-winning field goal by Tucker. Hell, he only needs half of the field, which the Ravens did get in their final drive. Yet by that time they needed a touchdown, which, of course, they did not get.

John Madden used to say in these situations, “You had three tries to get it in and failed to do so – not one try, three; and while you really want to punch in the touchdown, when you have three tries from there and can’t get it in, you have to take the points. You always take free points.”

Not Harbaugh. He’s got the battery on his shoulder and his analytics card in his pocket.

During the Ravens’ six-game losing streak last year, that took them from being the projected top seed in the AFC to out of the playoffs all together, Harbaugh pulled his little stunt twice in losses to Pittsburgh and to Green Bay, both at home.

Why are the Ravens paying a record contract to the best kicker in the league, and perhaps of all-time, if they continue to refuse to use him?

It’s gotten old, and not just for the fans.

While every player that talked to the media after Sunday’s game endorsed the Harbaugh strategy and Harbaugh the coach, cornerback Marcus Peters was in visible disagreement seconds after the game-winning kick went through, throwing his helmet to the ground and being restrained by assistant coaches on the sideline to keep him from expressing his disagreement with his head coach.

Hey, you bust your arse out there for 60 minutes just to see the same old song and dance to continuously grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, one would imagine it would become frustrating.

Peters left the Ravens dressing room before the media entered, but after the game, Harbaugh assured reporters he and Peters are on the same page, that he loved Marcus Peters and hoped Marcus Peters loved him, too.

At this point, it seems only a mother could love him. And his analytics card.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT