OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) - Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the lessons his team learned losing improbable fashion will help his team the rest of the season.
Harbaugh praised his team’s performance against New Orleans - with the possible exception of one missed kick.
Playing without two starting offensive linemen and with standout cornerback Marlon Humphrey watching from the sideline on Sunday, the Ravens limited Drew Brees to 212 yards passing and scored the potential game-tying touchdown with 24 seconds left by virtue of a six-play, 81-yard drive engineered deftly by quarterback Joe Flacco.
Then, with overtime looming, Justin Tucker’s seemingly automatic conversion sailed to the right . He was previously 222 for 222 since turning pro in 2012.
The 24-23 defeat dropped Baltimore (4-3) out of a first-place tie in the AFC North with a matchup at Carolina upcoming Sunday.
“Our guys played very well,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Many of the things that we learned in this last game, we can apply to the rest of the season. And we’re going to try to do that and make the game a positive in that sense.”
At kickoff, the wind was blowing at 15 mph. Tucker didn’t use that as an excuse, though that might have been a factor in his unexpected misfire.
“The wind was definitely part of it,” Harbaugh insisted. “But at the end of the day, it’s a missed kick.”
Tucker couldn’t deny that.
“I feel like I cost us the game,” he said Sunday night. “Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and no one play wins or loses a game. But that’s a tough thing to grapple with when you’re the guy in that situation at the end of the game.”
Harbaugh considered for a moment going for a 2-point conversion, but dismissed the notion because the plan all along was to kick the ball in that situation.
“The numbers say to put it in overtime. That’s what the analytics say. It’s a clear choice,” Harbaugh said. “We have a Saturday morning meeting where we go through all those factors, and we had decided we would put it in overtime if it came to that.
“But you know, I had thoughts about going for 2. I was asked that, I thought about it. Your gut sometimes talks to you and you make a decision at the end based on that. At the end, I decided to go with what we talked about doing.”
One reason the Ravens are tough in overtime is because Tucker is the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history and is 36 for 50 over his career from at least 50 yards out.
Give Baltimore credit for getting in position to tie the game in the final minute, in part because the offensive line was thinned by injuries to Alex Lewis and James Hurst. Rookies Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown Jr. saw extensive action, and through it all Flacco was sacked only once.
“I thought they acquitted themselves very well,” Harbaugh said of Bozeman and Brown. “Both of them will learn from it. I think they’ll get a lot better because of the game experience they had and the speed of the game and all that. It was a positive in that sense.”
A victory would have given the Ravens sole possession of first place in the division. But who’s to say they would have won in overtime?
“It’s one of these games that could’ve went either way,” Flacco said. “There’s no sense in putting your head down and crying about stuff like this. You just have to move on.”
The Ravens don’t intend to let the loss define their season.
“We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. We fell one point short,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had the team’s lone sack of Brees. “We’ve got the best kicker in ball, so we’re not going to worry about that. We go back to the drawing board, get over this one quick, learn from your mistakes and get ready for Carolina.”
If that game comes down to a kick from Tucker in the closing seconds, there is a good chance he won’t be thinking about his miss against the Saints.
“Justin’s the best in the world at what he does, and he’s the most confident person that I know,” Flacco said. “It’s not going to be an issue.”
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