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.

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