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Harbaugh on failed fourth down: 'Are you kidding me?'

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh was questioned for leaving points on the board in last Sunday's loss to the Giants. Specifically, he was asked about the decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the Giants' 1-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

"That is what ticks me off about it," Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. "We can't score from the half-yard line with our offense? Are you kidding me?"

He added: "If you want to ask about one, ask about the other fourth down (later in the fourth quarter)," Harbaugh said. "That is the one to ask about. That is on your own 35-yard line with 4 1/2 minutes left, but we converted that one. But you didn't ask about that one. They had three fourth-down conversions, I think, that led to scores. If they go for those and don't get them, then people are asking them about those."

Most of the time, a coach complaining about fan reaction leaves himself open to criticism for being thin-skinned -- but not here. A coach going for it on fourth-and-short when every conceivable analytic available suggests it's the right move should not be chided by anyone looking to Monday morning quarterback a loss.

Harbaugh has been on the right end of the fourth-down revolution for quite some time. Back in 2014, when Football Outsiders last revisited their Aggressiveness Index, Harbaugh was ranked fourth, converting 76.9 percent of his fourth down attempts. He's already attempted more fourth down conversions this year (10) than the Arizona Cardinals attempted all of last season. The Ravens led the league in fourth down attempts last year with 24.

The play call on fourth down -- an outside toss to Terrance West -- was also the right move. The play moved the team's best ball carrier away from the Giants' best weapon, a high-priced defensive line especially stout against the run. It also put one of Baltimore's best run blockers -- fullback Kyle Juszczyk -- against Pro Football Focus' 49th-best run defending linebacker, Jonathan Casillas.

Of course no set of analytics is perfect, but Harbaugh played the odds straight through in a key position Sunday. For that, fans should be grateful -- 75 percent of the time it works out in their favor.

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