Joe Flacco wasn't pleased with the Baltimore Ravens' results on fourth down in Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins. He did, however, believe it was the right decision to go for the first down both times.
On the opening drive, the Ravens were stopped on fourth-and-1 at midfield when an unblocked Redskins linebacker hit running back Bernard Pierce in the backfield. Then, on the last play of the first quarter, the offensive line got no push on fourth-and-1 at the Redskins' 11-yard line and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro was stopped for no gain.
Flacco made it clear that he supported the aggressive decision-making of coach John Harbaugh.
"When you’re an offensive guy, and you’re on the field, you want to stay out there," Flacco said. "You want to score points for your team, and going for it on fourth down in those situations is giving you the opportunity to do that. That’s all you can ask for as a quarterback.”
Harbaugh said the decisions to go for it on fourth down were "without question" easier because it was the preseason.
"But, the numbers and percentages, pretty much says, ‘Go for it,'" Harbaugh said. "It’s pretty overwhelming a lot of times. As a coach, you’ve got to make a gut decision on how you feel about it. We’ve gone for it a lot over the years. I think if you look at the track record, we’re pretty aggressive on fourth down. So we like to do that, and we like to have confidence in our guys being able to get there.”
It does seem like Harbaugh has gone for it on fourth down many times over the years. But the numbers say otherwise.
Since Harbaugh became coach in 2008, the Ravens have attempted the fourth-fewest fourth downs (71) in the NFL. Their conversion rate of 46.5 percent ranks 22nd in the league.
How have the Ravens done on fourth-and-one? Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have converted 61.3 percent of those situations (19 of 31), which ranks 22nd in the NFL. There are 10 teams who have a conversion rate over 70 percent on fourth-and-one over that span.