Anatomy of Ravens' last-minute decision to go for 1st down

December 06, 2010|By Ken Murray | Baltimore Sun reporter

Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't second guess his decision to go for a first down rather than a potential game-tying field goal in the final minute of Sunday night's AFC North showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Neither did kicker Billy Cundiff.

With the wind in Cundiff's face, Harbaugh eschewed a 49- or 50-yard field goal and tried to convert fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 31 with 37 seconds left.

Quarterback Joe Flacco's pass landed at the feet of intended receiver Ed Dickson and the Steelers skittered out of M&T Bank Stadium with an improbable 13-10 victory.

"It was just a tough wind up there," Harbaugh said after the difficult ending. "It was really outside of our range, as we designated going in. We felt like we had a better chance to get the first down than we had to get that field goal."

Cundiff, who has shown a tremendously strong leg this season, had hit 5 of 6 field goals from 40 to 49 yards. But both in pregame and after halftime, he said the Ravens determined the outer range of a kick into the wind and agreed with Harbaugh that the percentages dictated going for the first down.

"We established what our range was in warm-ups and when we came back out after halftime," Cundiff said. "With the conditions the way they were, it was not realistic … unless you were going on a wing and a prayer."

Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham hit a 45-yard field goal into the wind in the third quarter after the Steelers advanced to the Baltimore 27.

"If you looked at Shaun's 45-yard field goal, he just squeaked it over," Cundiff said.

Harbaugh said he wanted to get to the 27-yard line before letting Cundiff kick. "We thought the outside range was 30. That was the drop-dead range, 30," he said. A former special teams coach, Harbaugh was emphatic he made the right decision.

"I'm pretty good at that," he said. "I've been doing that for a long time, and I understand what those guys can do and what they can't do. It was a very low percentage kick."

Cundiff said he tried three kicks from 48 yards in pregame and hit only one. "So that's 33 percent from 48," he said.

"This would have been 49 or 50, with the wind in my face. That's a tough kick in the NFL even with good conditions. … I can't say, after the fact, that I could've made that."

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