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Ravens HC John Harbaugh: Fake Punt Called To Keep Defense Off The Field

September 10, 2019
John Harbaugh's weekly Monday news conference was just about over Sept. 9 when he expressed surprise that no one had asked him about the Ravens' fake punt a day earlier.

In the second quarter of the Ravens' 59-10 season-opening rout of the Miami Dolphins, already rolling with a 35-3 lead, the Ravens faced fourth-and-1 from their own 30-yard line. Instead of firing the ball back to punter Sam Koch, long snapper Morgan Cox snapped directly to punt protector Anthony Levine, who rambled right up the middle for 60 yards before being tackled by Dolphins punt returner Jakeem Grant at the Dolphins' 10-yard line. That set up another Ravens touchdown four plays later. 

It might have seemed like overkill in a lopsided game, and whether any such criticism registered with Harbaugh, at the end of his news conference he was clearly eager to revisit the play.

"That's the NFL for one thing," Harbaugh said, "but the point is -- and I know that the Dolphins understand this -- ... the objective, especially in the second quarter, is to keep your offense on the field and to keep your defense off the field by any means necessary.

"We're not looking for more snaps for our defense," he added. "We're always going to try to do that. And we knew we were going to go for that fourth down once it got to fourth-and-close-to-1. And so now you look for the best play. We felt like the fake punt was the best play, so that's why we did it."

Harbaugh downplayed the idea that the Ravens were trying to show a fake punt scheme to give other teams something to worry about going forward.

"That's a pretty standard play," Harbaugh said. "That dive play on punt, everybody runs it, so everybody knows we have it."

Harbaugh and the Ravens also eschewed a field-goal try when faced with fourth-and-goal from the Dolphins 3-yard line with a 52-10 lead, and backup quarterback Robert Griffin III tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews.

All's fair in love, war, and lopsided NFL football games. 

"We've been on those games before on the other side, as you know, and that's not a complaint that you have," Harbaugh said. "We've had a fake punt on us run with 35-plus on us, and we've had two passing touchdowns scored on us in the last six minutes of a blowout."

The Ravens 44-7 loss to Jacksonville in London in 2017 might come to mind; the Jaguars ran a fake punt while leading 37-0 late in the third quarter. 

Harbaugh was correct that the Dolphins -- or at least coach Brian Flores -- did not have an issue with the Ravens calls.

"It's our job to stop them," Flores said. "Those are my thoughts. It's not their job to let off. So it's our job to stop them. John is a good coach. ... It's our job to stop them. I'm not looking for handouts here."

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox