The Baltimore Ravens wanted to push the tempo against the Kansas City Chiefs. During Baltimore’s 33-28 loss in Kansas City, the Ravens were extremely aggressive, constantly going for it on fourth downs and opting to go for two points with the team down 11 points.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh defended those decisions Monday, and used math and analytics to support the choices.
“There are a lot of factors that go into it that are mathematically calculated.” pic.twitter.com/oBw5mbizJT— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 23, 2019
Harbaugh went into all the factors that he and the Ravens’ analytics group considered that led them to make those choices. Harbaugh mentioned the Ravens’ opponent and the weather before saying “there are a lot of factors that go into it that are mathematically calculated.”
Harbaugh added the game against the Chiefs wasn’t about field position, it was about possessions. The Ravens wanted to possess the ball as much as possible and make the most out of each possession.
Harbaugh also defended his decision to go for two with the Ravens trailing by 11. Either way, it would have been a two-score game, and Harbaugh didn’t want to let the game come down to an overtime coin flip. He wanted to win it in regulation.
Football analytics have long been in favor of teams being more aggressive. The numbers show that teams often see their win probability drop when making safe choices. Being more aggressive can be risky, but it can pay off in a big way when a team converts those plays.
Even if you hate analytics, consider this line of reasoning: The Ravens weren’t going to beat the Chiefs by punting and kicking field goals. Patrick Mahomes and company are far too dominant to be stopped by those methods. If you’re going to beat the Chiefs, you have to score a lot of points and keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hands. That’s exactly what the Ravens tried to do.
It didn’t work out for the Ravens this time, though the team came close. That’s a lot better than most teams do against the Chiefs, and it will be interesting to see if other teams test out similar strategies against Kansas City moving forward.
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