There are many Ravens fans absolutely disgusted with John Harbaugh and the rest of his coaching staff over their role in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots.
The Ravens were in the driver’s set after a dominating first half, but halftime adjustments from Bill Belichick made a big difference later in the game. Instead of trying to counter some of the things Belichick did, the Ravens just held up the white flag and bowed down to the coach.
Faced with fourth-and-short at midfield in the fourth quarter, the second such situation in the game for the Ravens, Harbaugh again elected to punt rather than go for the first down. Punting in the same situation earlier in the game wasn’t a big deal, but Harbaugh needed to go for the first down in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots were clearly grabbing momentum, and you can only give Tom Brady so many chances before he makes you pay. Harbaugh is too willing to put the game on a defense that is no longer dominant. They are still very good, but the defense is getting old and the team has focused on the offense in recent drafts and through free agency.
Harbaugh played not to lose instead of playing for the win. You can’t do that in the NFL on a regular basis and continue to get away with it, especially on the road of all places. That might work on home turf, but not on the road against a Tom Brady-Bill Belichick team.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Mattison also deserves significant blame for the lack of pressure he put on Brady in the second half. The Ravens were extremely successful against New England in last year’s playoffs by blitzing Brady up the middle and forcing him to throw on the move, something he doesn’t do well.
Mattison spent much of yesterday dropping eight into coverage and rushing just three, and it was effective in the first half. It was a good strategy that caught the Patriots by surprise, but one that needed to be modified as the game progressed.
The Patriots made adjustments in the second half, and the Ravens had no answer defensively. Mattison continued to rush just three players when the team couldn’t even get pressure on the quarterback bringing four guys, giving Brady all the time in the world to pick apart the secondary.
He was also had his cornerbacks playing significantly off the line of scrimmage, which made absolutely no sense considering the Patriots don’t have a deep threat and hadn’t hit a long pass all game long.
It was a terrible coaching performance all-around, and hopefully the players privately express some of their displeasure over the way they were hand-cuffed in the second half. Maybe it will be a lesson well-learned and won’t happen again.