Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio leveled bristling criticism at the Ravens for skipping a victory formation and calling for Lamar Jackson to run the ball for 5 yards on the final play of the Ravens 23-7 win Oct. 3, but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh shot back that he was “not going to give that insult one second thought,” then offered a couple of subtle digs of his own.
To review, the Ravens had the game in hand after Anthony Averett intercepted a Drew Lock pass in the end zone with three seconds left.
Conventional wisdom dictated that the Ravens, up by 16 points, would line up in a victory formation, Jackson would take a knee, toss the ball to the ref and jog off the field victorious.
Except the Ravens had 97 rushing yards to that point, and they had gained at least 100 rushing yards in 42 straight games, one shy of the all-time NFL record set by the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1974-1977.
Rather than having Jackson take a knee, Harbaugh called a running play with Jackson carrying around left end, with offensive linemen pulling in front of him. After gaining five yards, Jackson dropped to the turf, the victory and a share of the rushing record having been secured.
After the game, Harbaugh said the decision was “100 percent my call. That’s one of those things that’s meaningful. … It’s a very, very tough record to accomplish, and it’s a long-term record. I’m not going to say it’s more important than winning the game, for sure. It’s certainly not. But as a head coach, I think you do that for your players and you do that for your coaches and that’s something they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”
Fangio, who had served on Harbaugh’s Ravens staff from 2008-2009, wasn’t having any of it, right after the game or the next day.
A Denver television station captured footage of an infuriated Fangio ripping off his headset and shouting expletives as the play ended.
The next day he called Harbaugh’s decision “kind of bulls___, but I expected it from them. Thirty-seven years in pro ball, I’ve never seen anything like that. … I just know how they operate. That’s just their mode of operation there. Player safety is secondary.”
Fangio also expressed frustration that no penalties were called on the hits that knocked Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and wide receiver Diontae Spencer out of the game.
Informed of Fangio’s comments, Harbaugh said, “I mean, I thought we were on good terms. We had a nice chat before the game. [We’ve] known each other for a long time. But I promise you, I’m not going to give that insult one second thought. What’s meaningful to us might not be meaningful to them. Their concerns are definitely not our concerns.”
Harbaugh explained that, with the Broncos driving in the final minute, “We didn’t expect to get the ball back. But I had already decided, we decided, that if we got the ball back, we were going to try to get the yards.”
Harbaugh also pointed out that the Broncos threw into the end zone with 10 seconds left and, “I don’t know that there’s a 16-point touchdown that’s going to be possible right there, so that didn’t have anything to do with winning the football game.”
Later, Harbaugh seemed to take a shot at Fangio’s “player safety” comment when he pointed out that Le’Veon Bell had his neck twisted on a play when Broncos safety Justin Simmons grabbed Bell’s face mask. No penalty was called.
Harbaugh also said the Ravens were planning to send the league a couple of plays in which they thought Jackson was hit late or low. No penalties were called on those, and one of them proved to be Jackson’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.
Including the final, controversial carry, Jackson finished with seven carries for 28 yards. He was also sacked three times and hit eight times, but after missing two practices last week with a back “flare-up,” Harbaugh said Jackson emerged from this game in good shape.
“He came out of it really good,” Harbaugh said. “[He] really, really is in good shape. He feels great right now, and he’s getting ready for the Colts game.”
The Ravens host the Indianapolis Colts on “Monday Night Football” at M&T Bank Stadium Oct. 11, when they will attempt to top 100 yards rushing for the 44th game in a row.
RUNNING BACK PICTURE REMAINS FUZZY: The Ravens deactivated previous starter Ty’Son Williams for the Broncos game and added Le’Veon Bell from the practice squad. The former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro joined Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman in the Ravens backfield, and Harbaugh said the next day that the only clarity about this group is, “they all can play. That’s probably as clear as we are right now. So we just have to figure out how they fit together with what we’re doing offensively. We’re happy with all of those guys, and we’ll see as we go.”
Murray became the lead back with Williams inactive, playing 45 of 73 offensive snaps. He finished with a team-high 18 carries for 59 yards and scored on an 11-yard touchdown run. Bell played 20 snaps and ran four times for 11 yards in his Ravens debut, and Freeman, in on six snaps, carried once for 4 yards.
Lamar Jackson remains the Ravens leading rusher with 279 yards on 42 carries, followed by Williams (27-164) and Murray (44-151).
HARBAUGH NONCOMMITTAL ON BATEMAN, BOYKIN: Wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Miles Boykin remain on injured reserve, but they have returned to practice and could see their first game action of the year against the Colts. Harbaugh, though, wasn’t ready to go that far just yet.
“I think both those guys have a chance of playing this week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
PRACTICE SQUAD SHUFFLE: The Ravens signed cornerback Mazzi Wilkins and released Linden Stephens in a shuffle of practice-squad cornerbacks. Wilkins, who went undrafted out of South Florida, played in six games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2019-2020, then was briefly on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad last month.
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