Wednesday, January 30, 2013
How do 49ers, Ravens handle tough calls?
By John Parolin
With Wednesday’s focus on potential chaos on the sidelines here’s a look at how the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers compare in two areas that directly reflect the ability of those to stay calm and communicate effectively- the two-minute drill and the decision to throw the challenge flag.
The two-minute drill
The 49ers posted the fourth-best point differential in the two-minute drill (plus-34) this season.
While Colin Kaepernick has been adequate passing in the last two minutes of the half (17-for-31, 220 yards, one touchdown, one interception) his success on the ground has made him especially effective.
No quarterback in the league has more rushing first downs in the two-minute drill than Kaepernick (six).
This may be an area in which the 49ers have an edge.
The Ravens had a minus-34 point differential in the two-minute drill, the fourth-worst mark in the league. Baltimore was also one of three teams to make the playoffs with a negative turnover differential (minus-1) in the two-minute drill.
The chart on the right shows the difference in performance between the two teams this season.
However, the Ravens have executed in the two-minute offense in the postseason, outscoring opponents 21-6, with the highlight being the game-tying 70-yard touchdown throw near the end of regulation in the overtime win over the Denver Broncos.
Joe Flacco also had a touchdown throw to Torrey Smith in the two-minute drill in the first half of that game. Flacco is 6-for-9 for 183 yards with under two minutes remaining in either half this postseason.
Jim Harbaugh’s Challenges
No coach was more active with challenge flag than 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh.
He threw nine challenge flags during the season, tied with Ken Whisenhunt and Rex Ryan for the NFL lead.
Harbaugh’s 33 percent success rate was below the league average (48 percent of challenges were overturned). However, four of the nine were thrown in the first three weeks of the season with replacement officials.
For more on Harbaugh’s successes, check the article by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell earlier in the week.
John Harbaugh’s Challenges
Ravens coach John Harbaugh had better statistical success when challenging official rulings than his younger brother, winning three of his six challenges.
However, despite the higher success rate, Harbaugh’s decision-making involved some questionable choices.
In Week 2 against the Eagles, John Harbaugh burned a timeout to challenge whether Michael Vick was on the ground as he threw the ball away in the third quarter. Vick’s knees did not appear to be close to the ground, and Baltimore lost the challenge.
Philadelphia had just been flagged for holding and faced a 2nd-and-17 anyway, and the poor challenge cost Baltimore a timeout (Baltimore’s first) when it would have gained only seven yards.
If John Harbaugh had trusted his defense to hold off the Eagles (as they did) and saved the timeout, that might have helped the Ravens avoid the eventual outcome.
Trailing 24-23 late in the game, Baltimore would run an eight-play drive in the two-minute drill.
The drive was all passes and stalled out at the Ravens’ 46-yard line. The Ravens lost 24-23, with both timeouts remaining left unused and running back Ray Rice targeted only once on the drive.
In Week 13 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Charlie Batch was hit while throwing by Ma’ake Kemoeatu early in the third quarter and the ball came out.
Before the whistle blew, Baltimore recovered the football, but the play and subsequent replays clearly showed Batch’s arm moving forward.
Harbaugh challenged the ruling on the field, one that seemed fairly obvious to be ruled correctly.
What made this a costly decision in hindsight was that by 7:57 of the third quarter, the Ravens had used their second timeout in a 13-13 game against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh used a 6:14 drive to close out the game, with Shaun Suisham kicking a game-winning 42-yard field goal with no time left, in part because the Ravens could not stop the clock.