John Harbaugh may have improved to 5-of-6 on successful challenges, but the Ravens head coach’s decision to attempt an onside kick late in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars may be a target for criticism.
After quarterback Joe Flacco had connected with wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a 5-yard touchdown strike to make the score 9-7 with 2:02 remaining in the contest, Harbaugh could have elected to have kicker Billy Cundiff, who is tied for third in the NFL with 23 touchbacks, drive the kickoff deep and pin Jacksonville in their own territory.
Instead, Harbaugh called for an onside kick. But Cundiff’s kick did not go past 10 yards, giving the Jaguars the ball at the Ravens’ 37-yard line. Four plays and four yards later, kicker Josh Scobee drilled his fourth field goal, a 51-yarder.
After the loss, Harbaugh said kicking the kickoff deep and putting the game on the defense was an option.
“Absolutely, we considered that, but I decided I wanted to go for the onside kick because I felt like we needed the short field and I felt like we were going to get the onside kick,” he said. “I think if you look at the way it was executed, we would have gotten it if it was kicked a little better. You have to kick the ball 10 yards. Billy knows that. If we had kicked the ball 10 yards, I believe we would get it, and we would have been in good shape. We would have had the best possible chance of winning the game, but you could certainly make the argument the other way.”
Cundiff, who badly shanked a 52-yard field-goal attempt wide right in the third quarter, blamed himself for not putting the onside kick past the 45-yard line.
“My job is to put the ball somewhere between 10 and 11 yards and give the guys a chance to recover it, and I didn’t do that,” he said. “It sucks, but as in the case of the field goal, you only get one shot. You’ve got to go out there and perform, and I didn’t do it.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times