Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made a point of being aggressive on offense last week, going for it on fourth often and opting to attempt plenty of two-point conversions.
That continued in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, although not entirely to the desired effect.
Harbaugh and the Ravens have the numbers on their side, but as they can attest the last two weeks, that’s still not always enough, as they fell 40-25.
Going for two, down eight points in the fourth
NFL teams are especially risk-averse, which costs them in the long run. Especially with PATs moved back and no longer being gimmes, it pays off to go for 2 far more often than teams are doing now.
Besides when a team is down two points after scoring a touchdown, one common instance to go for two is down eight after scoring a touchdown. While that may sound counterintuitive, the math is very simple.
Since 2001, teams have a 47.9 percent conversion rate, although they’ve become more successful over time. Last season teams were successful more than half the time. But even if you give teams a coin flip’s odds, the math tells you to go for it since three-quarters of the possibilities are good.
Situation A: Two-point conversion is successful, and touchdown wins the game (50 percent)
Situation B: Two-point conversion fails, but a touchdown with a two-point conversion ties it (25 percent)
Situation C: Two-point conversion fails, and a second failed two-point conversion loses the game (25 percent)
Knowing that, Harbaugh happily went for two after Lamar Jackson's touchdown pass to Mark Andrews and punched it in on a Mark Ingram rush. Suddenly a touchdown would have given them the lead. Only problem? Everything else went wrong for the Ravens.
Smart play-calling not enough for the Ravens
Needing a stop after cutting their deficit to six, the Ravens immediately gave up an 88-yard touchdown scamper to Nick Chubb. Even though the Ravens stopped Cleveland’s two-point attempt, they couldn’t stay close the rest of the way.
Baltimore immediately reached fourth down the following possession back and smartly went for it, since they were running out of time. However, they could not convert, and Cleveland added a field goal four plays later to push its lead to 15.
Jackson then threw picks on each of the next two drives, effectively sealing the team's fate as the Browns went up 40-18. He did add a 50-yard touchdown to Willie Snead IV with 30 seconds left, but with too many mistakes, the smart strategy couldn’t carry the Ravens to a win.
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