ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vic Fangio used his day-after-game news conference Monday to strike that delicate balance between showing his players he was united in their indignation against the Baltimore Ravens’ three-second rush for an obscure record, while also making sure his players moved on to their next game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
First, he provided some words of substance.
“Yeah, I thought it was kind of bull(expletive) but I expected it from them,’’ Fangio said about Ravens head coach John Harbaugh ordering a running play with three seconds remaining even though Baltimore was leading the Broncos, 23-7.
Harbaugh admittedly ordered a sweep left by Ravens' quarterback Lamar Jackson because Baltimore needed three more yards to tie what many would say is an ambiguous record of 43 consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing. The record was set by the then-mighty Pittsburgh Steelers of Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier and Mike Webster from 1974-77.
Jackson picked up five yards and the Ravens have now tied the mark. They can break it Sunday when they play the Indianapolis Colts. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or the 1972 Dolphins 17-0 it ain’t.
“I’ve had 37 years in pro ball and I’ve never seen anything like that,’’ Fangio said. “But it was to be expected and we expected it.’’
Why did he expect it?
“I just know how they operate,’’ he said. “That’s just their mode of operation there. Player safety is secondary.”
Fangio was a Ravens’ assistant defensive coach for four years from 2006-09 with Harbaugh as the head coach during the final two years.
From that point forward, Fangio didn’t want to speak much about it. He was asked what, exactly, the issue was with running one more serious play in the final three seconds despite having a 16-point lead: Injury factor? Sportsmanship?
“All of the above,’’ Fangio said.
Normally, the team with the win assured gathers in a “victory formation” and the quarterback takes a knee to kill off the final seconds. Harbaugh wanted posterity as well as victory.
“That was 100% my call,’’ Harbaugh said postgame Sunday from the visiting news conference room at Empower Field at Mile High. “That's one of those things that's meaningful. It's one of those things that I think as a head coach you have to be mindful of your team. It’s a 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. As a head coach I think you do that for your players, and you do that for your coaches which is something that they'll have for the rest of our lives.’’
The integrity of that record, though, is now smudged in controversy. Especially when the player who is 95% responsible for the Ravens’ 100-yard rushing streak – Lamar Jackson – indicated after the game the record wasn’t all that important to him.
“I don’t know what he was thinking,’’ Jackson said of Harbaugh. “I thought we would take a knee and he said, ‘No, we’re going for it.’ The game was put away. ‘Double-A’ (CB Anthony Averett) caught that pick in the back of the end zone, congratulations to him, but I don’t know what coach was thinking.”
Jackson followed by saying: “I’m just happy we got the dub. I wasn’t thinking about (the record). I was just thinking about winning the game.”
A 9NEWS photographer captured the bedlam on the Broncos’ sideline in the seconds prior and during the final play. Broncos defensive line coach Bill Kollar recognized pre-snap that the Ravens were about to run a play and started screaming obscenities. Defensive lineman Shelby Harris also saw what was up and uttered his displeasure at the perceived lack of sportsmanship.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio was upset enough he moved down to the line of scrimmage at the 20 yard line and tried to get his defensive backs, who were in a relaxed state anticipating the kneel down, to move up into the play. When Jackson rushed for five yards to surpass 100 yards, Fangio threw down his headset in disgust.
After the final play, Broncos defensive tackle Mike Purcell was spotted shaking his head in disbelief at several Ravens players.
Harbaugh in his day-after-game news conference Monday was told of Fangio’s comments Monday, particularly the one about player safety being secondary.
“I thought we were on good terms,’’ Harbaugh said. “We had a nice chat before the game. But I promise you, I’m not going to give that insult one second of thought. What’s meaningful to us is not necessarily meaningful to them.”
Broncos tight end Noah Fant, who was not directly involved in the insult-to-defeat play, offered a passive-aggressive view from the other side of the ball Monday.
“I wasn’t really offended by it. It just kind of seemed – obviously the statistical things are important to them,’’ Fant said. “If it’s me I’m getting a win and getting out of there. But to each his own. They did it, they did whatever, it doesn’t really matter. We still lost and that’s all that matters to me, matters to us.’’
The 3-1 Broncos play the 1-3 Steelers this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“It’s just time to move on,’’ Fangio said. “It’s a 17-round fight. We lost the 4th round. We’ve got to get off of the stool, and go answer the bell for the fifth round.”
Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is in the NFL's concussion protocol, but there is hope he can return to practice on a limited basis this week. The earliest he can be completely cleared from the protocol is Saturday.
Fangio said returner/receiver Diontae Spencer and cornerback Pat Surtain II were "day-to-day" with their respective chest injuries. That's especially good news for Spencer after he was a defenseless receiver while receiving a blow to the upper body.
Fangio on the helmet-to-helmet hit on Bridgewater, and blow to Spencer that weren't penalized: "They should have been called obviously, but they weren't. I sent a video in to the officiating office during the week showing similar hits that they've (the Ravens) had and gotten away with. And it continued. So you can see sending videos to the officiating office can be fruitless at times."
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