Allegany Radio Corporation Sports
The Baltimore Ravens were pretty beat up before their first game, a gruesome 33-27 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, was even played on Monday night, given the 11 players who were on the injured reserve, including the top three running backs on the roster, as well as one of the best cornerbacks in the #NFLTheTVShow (oh, and did we mention the game was played in Las Vegas?).
But that wasn’t enough. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley had a really, really tough night, making his return after missing most of last season with a torn ACL; and new right tackle Alejandro Villanueva, playing his first game as a Raven, after spending a distinguished career as a left tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was even worse.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson coughed up two fumbles that led directly to 14 Las Vegas points and the Ravens defense continues to play without a pass rush or any pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
But even that wasn’t enough for the Ravens to refuse the Raiders’ willingness to hand the game to them on a silver and black platter (see what I did there?). Head coach John Harbaugh had to get involved. And, brother, was he ever a difference maker.
After jumping out to a crisp 14-0 lead, the Ravens saw the Raiders counter with a touchdown of their own, but then answered smartly, marching right back into scoring position. Yet the drive stalled well into Vegas territory (did we mention the game was played in Vegas?), and on a fourth and one, naturally, rather than take the free points that a Justin Tucker field goal would have provided to make the score 17-7, Robert Conrad Jr. (Harbaugh) goes for the first down. And fails.
We mentioned Harbaugh’s bull(bleep) knock-the-battery-off-my-shoulder bull(bleep) in this space the last time we met here. This was Classic Example No. 1 of it on display during Monday night’s game. You always take free points when you can get them, particularly when you have a team on its heels and have the opportunity to put it further on its heels.
Classic Example No. 2 of Harbaugh’s macho bull(bleep) came when the Ravens seemingly had the game in hand, 27-24, on Tucker’s field goal with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens finally had the game within their grasp with 37 seconds left and, better yet, with the Raiders out of timeouts.
Yet, rather than try to eliminate more clock in order to get back on the plane for the flight back to Baltimore, the Ravens decided to have Tucker kick off through the end zone, rather than pooch something high and down the middle of the field to force a Raiders return and run even more time from the sparse clock.
Two plays later, the Raiders kick the game-tying field goal with two seconds remaining to force the overtime in which they tried on more than one more occasion to hand the game to the Ravens still. But, thankfully for Vegas fans seeing their first NFL regular-season game on the hometown sands, they failed. The Ravens just wouldn’t accept it.
That begins and ends with Harbaugh and his horse(dump) macho decisions.
Harbaugh is an exceptional head coach; there is no reason to try to deny that. Yet with the good and the bad, comes the ugly; and Harbaugh has made plenty of ugly decisions such as were on display on Monday night, that can determine the result of an entire game on just two plays.
We give Harbaugh the kudos when he deserves them, and he deserves many. Yet when somebody has the temerity to question his thinking once it leads directly to a defeat, he bristles. And he remembers; but only compounds his stubbornness by repeating such harebrained decisions and, in turn, making matters worse.
Why are the Ravens paying the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history so much money to not kick field goals on fourth downs? Why do the Ravens continue to tempt fate by continuously trying to cheat the clock by not taking any time from it when they seemingly have a lucky victory in hand?
The Ravens are now 0-1 after dropping a game their overmatched opponent did everything in the world to give to them. They host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The Chiefs are going to hand them nothing, and 0-2 seems like a very real possibility.
But go ahead. Knock the battery off my shoulder … I dare ya.
Mike Burke writes about sports and a lot of other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT