John Harbaugh on Ravens run game: ‘That’s not going to win an AFC Championship Game’

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the team made a mistake by not running the ball more against the Kansas City Chiefs in their 17-10 loss in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The Ravens had the NFL’s top rushing attack in the regular season — averaging 163.8 yards per game — but they ran the ball a season-low 16 times — eight by Jackson — for 81 yards against a Chiefs team that allowed 182 yards rushing to the Buffalo Bills the previous week.

“That’s not the number [of rushing attempts] you want to have,” Harbaugh said in a season-ending news conference with general manager Eric DeCosta on Friday. “When it’s all said and done, and you look back on it, that’s not really going to win us an AFC Championship Game, for sure. It’s more than just calling plays.”

Kansas City set the tone early, putting the Ravens on their heels. The Chiefs’ opening scoring drive went 10 plays for 86 yards in five minutes and 45 seconds. After the Ravens tied the game, 7-7, on a marvelous touchdown throw by Lamar Jackson, Kansas City answered with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that took 9:02 off the clock.

Those back-to-back scoring drives took the Ravens out of their game. They used their two-minute offense at the end of the first half and for the entire fourth quarter, which minimized rushing attempts because the goal was to move the ball downfield quickly. The Ravens played as if they were in a rush to score, even though they never trailed by more than 10 points.

“Believe it or not, it was a big part of our gameplan to run the ball,” Harbaugh said. “[We] had the ball for nine minutes in the first half. So those two long drives [by the Kansas City Chiefs] took us out of the opportunity to call any kind of plays.

“Then, we didn’t convert. We had mistakes. [The Chiefs] stopped us. They made plays. We were off the field right away after that first drive. I think all those things played into it.”

The Chiefs held the ball for 37:30, compared to 22:30 for the Ravens. Baltimore was also just 3-for-11 on third down.

The Ravens had costly errors, committing a pair of turnovers inside the red zone on an interception by Jackson when he threw into triple coverage and a fumble by wide receiver Zay Flowers when he had the ball knocked out of his hands just before he crossed the goal line.

“We started moving the ball and then we made a couple of mistakes, ” Harbaugh said. “We had penalties. We had an opportunity to score, but we didn’t finish the play. We kind of wasted a couple of drives there when it’s all said and done. Then, you’re in a passing game at that point.

“I think when you look at the way the game played out, you can understand it from a football perspective. Once you get through all that, you come back – you want to run the ball against the Chiefs. There’s no doubt about it, and we did want to run the ball against the Chiefs. We weren’t able to get to it.” 

 Harbaugh credited the Chiefs for putting together an effective gameplan and making more plays.

The Ravens took the loss hard, but the front office and coaches were back to work the next day getting ready for next season.

“I think it was a great season,” DeCosta said. “[It was] very rewarding. I love the team, the players, the chemistry, the culture, the camaraderie – every single day, these guys came to work. The coaches – the effort they put into it. The job the scouts did. It was a great season. [It was] disappointing at the end, of course. It always is for most teams. I don’t have the luxury of really dwelling on a season. We go to the Senior Bowl the next day. [I] literally woke up the next day, said goodbye to the kids and went to the Senior Bowl.

“We’ve moved on. I know I’ve moved on. I think the scouts have moved on, and now we’re excited about the future.” 

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