Ravens take clever approach to seal game by holding every Bengals player on safety

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was once accused of not knowing NFL rules. Not sure we can argue that after Sunday’s victory — and how the Ravens won — over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens led 19-12 over the Bengals and with 11 seconds left on fourth down from their own 23-yard line. Harbaugh, the former special-teams coordinator, wanted to make sure there would not be a blocked punt or a long punt return by the Bengals — and he took advantage of a rule to prevent that from happening.

Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch took an intentional safety in a brilliant bit of coaching. (Getty Images)
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Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch took an intentional safety in a brilliant bit of coaching. (Getty Images)

Back in punt formation, punter Sam Koch took the snap and started drifting backward as the Bengals rushed for an all-on block attempt. What did the Ravens do? They held every player on the field who could be held.

Think about it: Holding is not a dead-ball foul, and there is no untimed down after the penalty. Koch floated in the end zone until the clock hit zero. Unlike a defensive penalty, the game can end right there. Final score: Ravens 19, Bengals 14 (and 14 the hard way — touchdown, missed XP, two field goals, intentional safety).

Fox’s Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officials, explains the rule even further:


What a brilliant way to ensure the Ravens’ sixth victory of the season and keep them in the AFC North race. That’s knowing the rules.

The Ravens basically won the game on special teams Sunday, with four more field goals — three from 50-plus yards — from 2016 team MVP Justin Tucker.

The guy who once — indirectly — called out Harbaugh for not knowing the rulebook? That would be Tom Brady. During the 2014 divisional playoff game between the Ravens and New England Patriots, Brady ran a few plays that had Harbaugh apoplectic. The Patriots appeared to have an illegal formation with only four offensive linemen on the line, but the rules at the time allowed it the way the Patriots ran the play (the rules have since been changed).

After Harbaugh complained to the referees during that game and then later to the media, Brady fired back: “Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out.”

Well, if Harbaugh didn’t know the rulebook then, he appears to now.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!