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Intentional holding at game's end helps Ravens hang on to victory over Bengals

Intentional holding at game's end helps Ravens hang on to victory over Bengals

BALTIMORE – The final play of Sunday’s Ravens-Bengals game was weird. But for the Ravens, it was all planned.

It was the perfect time to take an intentional safety. It was the perfect time for the Ravens to grab every Bengals player in sight, and not worry about being called for holding.

So that’s what the Ravens did. Clinging to a 19-12 lead on fourth down with 11 seconds to play, Ravens punter Sam Koch went into punt formation from the Ravens’ 23-yard line. But Koch never punted. He drifted backward, killing time. Meanwhile, the Ravens blatantly held the Bengals, keeping them away from Koch, and giving him more time to kill the clock.

Flags flew everywhere, before Koch ran out of bounds in the end zone as time expired. The Ravens gave up a safety, but got exactly what they wanted. Time expired. Game over. Ravens win, 19-14.

Watching a team commit multiple holding penalties to end a game is probably not a look the NFL wants. But until that loophole in the rule is changed, the Ravens will clearly take advantage. They employed the same holding strategy at the end of Super Bowl XLVII four seasons ago, when they were protecting a late lead against the 49ers and took an intentional safety.  

After Sunday’s game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was thrilled to see his players hold so effectively.

“That was the best safety ever taken, and what I meant was that it was the best executed safety ever taken because we kept him (Koch) clean the whole time,” Harbaugh said. “Siz (linebacker Terrell Suggs) says that nothing can top the Super Bowl safety.

“I thought our guys did a great job…Everybody did a great job of communicating. They were moving and shifting like they are well-coached to do. Our guys got on all of their guys and did a great job.”

Former NFL referee and current FOX analyst Mike Pereira sent out a tweet explaining why the Ravens were not required to run another play.

“In Baltimore, foul that occurs in the field of play by offense doesn’t extend period,” Pereira tweeted. “If foul was in end zone & created safety, it would.”

Koch said the Ravens were prepared for the situation, and did a better job than in the Super Bowl, where they still left a few seconds on the clock after the safety.

“We know what we did wrong in the Super Bowl and we kind of learned from it,” Koch said. “Even though it might only happen once or twice in four years, it’s something that we practice yearly.”  

And by holding the Bengals, the Ravens held on for the win.

MORE RAVENS: 5 observations from the Ravens' win over the Bengals

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What type of running backs are the Ravens looking for in this year's draft? GM Eric DeCosta explains

What type of running backs are the Ravens looking for in this year's draft? GM Eric DeCosta explains

The Ravens’ draft needs mostly stay within the front line on either side of the ball. 

They could use more defensive line and edge-rusher help, as well as more depth and a starter at inside linebacker. The interior offensive line could use depth, as could the tackle position. 

Aside from wide receiver, the Ravens’ needs aren’t all that flashy. 

But when the Ravens are on the clock with the 28th selection, should they stick to their best player available mantra, that could mean a running back comes off the board.

“You have to be big and strong and physical, but you also have to be durable,” general manager Eric DeCosta said. “That's a really important criteria for that position, and also be intelligent. We feel like we have a really good group of running backs on our team, and it'll just basically be who's available when we pick.” 

The Ravens set the NFL’s single-season rushing record last season due in large part to Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram, but also backup running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. 

At a position that is loaded, and also the heartbeat of the Ravens’ offense, there doesn’t appear to be any clear openings. 

“We set the record for rushing last year, so it's going to be hard for us this year,” DeCosta said. “So, we have to find as many good players as we can. I think that position is critically important to our offense.”

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That hasn’t stopped a few mock drafts from around the league projecting the Ravens might go with a running back in the early rounds. Should they do that, a few names to watch are D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers and J.K. Dobbins. All figure to be a few of the top running backs off the board. 

Even if the Ravens don’t pick a running back early in the draft, there’s still the possibility of selecting a back late with one of the Ravens’ nine draft choices. 

Should that happen, there will be a competition for the top three spots on the depth chart at running back for Baltimore.

“There are certainly running backs all throughout the draft in each round – first round all the way through the seventh round – guys that we think have the opportunity to come in and help us be the best team we can be, and we'll look at that,” DeCosta said.

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John Harbaugh concerned about potential hackers during virtual draft

John Harbaugh concerned about potential hackers during virtual draft

John Harbaugh is confident in the Ravens’ ability, as an organization, to manage the quarantine and go through as normal of an off-season as possible. 

His confidence in the off-season technology they’ll be using, however, is not as high. 

With members of the Ravens’ front office confined to their homes from now until the NFL Draft on April 23, they’ve had to adjust accordingly with virtual meetings and scouting sessions. 

Harbaugh has been assured by the IT department that they’ll be safe from any problems.

“My level of involvement has been every time I read something in The Wall Street Journal or New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is or some of these other deals that came out this morning, I immediately text it to our IT people,” Harbaugh said. 

The Ravens have been using the popular video conferencing site Zoom for their pre-draft meetings. 

“I’ve got some real concerns about that, and hopefully we’ll be okay,” Harbaugh said. “It’s kind of like that. We’ll see what happens. I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings. That would be preferable, if we can stay away from that.” 

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General manager Eric DeCosta, though, is a bit more confident than the head coach is.

“I have more confidence in Zoom than I do in Ozzie (Newsome), John, (owner Steve (Bisciotti) and team president Dick (Cass), with a copy of our draft board that they just leave in the car on their front seat or something like that,” DeCosta joked.

While the Ravens are focused on a virtual world as it relates to the NFL Draft, off-season workouts aren’t far behind. 

From there, the Ravens are waiting for word from the NFL on what their program over the summer could look like. That includes contingencies for both in-person and at-home workouts.

“I think it's up in the air just like it is with everything else with this situation,” Harbaugh said. “We've been told possibilities. We're kind of preparing for all that. The new CBA changes up some of the rules as far as what you're allowed to send them in their playbooks, some of the video teaching overlays, talk-overs and things like that.”

Harbaugh ensured they’ll be ready for any situation, but just like the rest of the NFL, and the country, the Ravens are playing a waiting game for what’s next.

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