John Harbaugh Takes Responsibility for Miscommunication on Free Kick Fair Catch 

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Joey Pulone/Baltimore Ravens Photos
Head Coach John Harbaugh

Head Coach John Harbaugh took responsibility and further explained a late-game fair catch that proved costly during Sunday’s overtime loss to the Colts.

The Ravens held a 19-16 lead after Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety, with the game clock showing 1:56 left in regulation.

The Ravens originally instructed Zay Flowers to fair catch the ensuing free kick, which he did. However, before the kick, the scoreboard clock was switched to 2:03. Flowers stopped the clock from starting with his fair catch, giving the Colts essentially a free timeout with the two-minute warning. The Ravens went three-and-out and took just 15 seconds off the clock also because of a third-down penalty that stopped the clock. That left the Colts with more than enough time to drive for a game-tying field goal, sending the game into overtime where the Colts prevailed.

Had Flowers run three seconds off the clock to get to the two-minute warning, the Ravens could have run the ball three times and, at worst, punted back to the Colts with less than 30 seconds left and no timeouts.

Asked about that sequence during his Monday press conference, Harbaugh put the blame on himself and a lack of communication.

“We’ll take responsibility for that,” Harbaugh said. “In the confusion of all that, it was chaotic. … We made the determination that we were going to fair catch everything. We were looking at an onside kick, pop-up kick, those kind of things (for the Colts) to try to get the ball back.

“We did not do the job we needed to do to communicate to our guys after the change was made – once they were on the field – that [the clock] changed. We might have thought we did; that’s the way it goes in communication. So, we just have to do a better job communicating. I think communication is the basis for everything, especially in football, especially in the heat of battle – finding a way to communicate clearly – and we just didn’t get that done. I’ll take responsibility for that. We’ve just got to be better at that. That should not have been a fair catch. We knew it, and we didn’t get the word to Zay [Flowers] like we needed to.”

Harbaugh said another helpful option would have been to call timeout before the Colts’ free kick. That would have given Baltimore more time to finalize its strategy and make sure everyone was on the same page.

“Looking back at it, right away afterward, I think we all said to ourselves, ‘We should have called timeout,'” Harbaugh said. “Looking back on it in hindsight, we should’ve called timeout. We would’ve made it more clear. I know we’ll learn from that.

“It’s not anybody’s fault but ours. We didn’t understand quick enough that it was going to be over two minutes left when the ball was kicked. By the time we did, we didn’t get thing communicated like we needed to the guys out there. That’s on us. That’s on us 100%. [We] take full responsibility for it. I’ll take full responsibility for it.”

Harbaugh Isn’t Locking Kyle Hamilton Into Slot Moving Forward

Safety Kyle Hamilton had a huge day playing primarily in the slot against the Colts, but Harbaugh isn’t locking him into that position moving forward.

The Ravens were planning to play Hamilton primarily as a natural safety when the season began, but Baltimore has two slot cornerbacks on injured reserve, Ar’Darius Washington and Pepe Williams, and injured Pro Bowl corner Marlon Humphrey is also effective in the slot.

When Washington went to injured reserve last week with a chest injury, it opened the door for Hamilton to play the slot on Sunday and he was Baltimore’s defensive star with three sacks, a forced fumble, pass deflection, and nine tackles. It will be interesting to see how much Hamilton continues to play in the slot moving forward, especially if the secondary can get healthier. The Ravens do have veteran nickel cornerback Arthur Maulet, but they chose to use a three-safety look with Daryl Worley Sunday against the Colts.

“I think that remains to be seen,” Harbaugh said. “We played a three-safety type of a defense, partly personnel partly game plan. He [Hamilton] definitely plays well in there. It’s definitely something that you have to think about. He’s kind of a difference-maker down in there. He makes sacks, bats balls down. He’s just playing super well. He plays super well when he’s playing back, too. Just real happy with the way he’s playing, and we’re going to use him in different spots.”

Ravens to Seek Explanation From League on Late-Game No-Calls

Penalty flags were not thrown against the Colts on two critical plays late in Sunday’s game, and the Ravens will seek explanation from the league.

With the Ravens holding a 19-16 lead in regulation, what looked like an obvious facemask against Zay Flowers wasn’t called with Baltimore needing a first down to ice the game. It was the same play where Nelson Agholor was called for an illegal block above the waist, which stopped the clock. Had offsetting penalties been called, the Ravens would have had another chance to run time off the clock.

Colts get away with a blatant face mask not called on Zay Flowers. #Ravens

— Bobby Trosset (@bobbybaltimoree) September 24, 2023

On the Ravens’ final possession in overtime, it appeared Flowers was illegally interfered with trying to catch a pass from Lamar Jackson, but no flag was thrown.

The end-zone view of the Zay Flowers noncall is pretty damning.

— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) September 25, 2023

“On Monday, you list the plays that you want them to look at and you send them in,” Harbaugh said. “It’s got to be written form, you can’t really call and ask. We’ll be sending those in for sure, absolutely. I’d like to get some clarification on those.”

Harbaugh Praises Josh Johnson for Unselfish Move

After being released over the weekend, backup quarterback Josh Johnson was re-signed to the 53-man roster on Monday. The weekend roster move with Johnson was necessitated by the Ravens’ many injuries. Seven players ruled out on Friday and the Ravens asked Johnson if they could cut him temporarily to open up a roster spot elsewhere for added depth.

Since he’s a vested veteran, Johnson doesn’t have to go through waivers. He can sign with whomever he wants. Johnson agreed and Harbaugh was grateful.

“We did that because we needed to have enough guys who were healthy active,” Harbaugh said. “As a veteran, he has a choice to do that. We asked him to do that. It wasn’t like we required him to do that and he was good about it, because he knew it was the best thing for this week. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.”

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