Why were the Ravens allowed to run out the clock by intentionally holding the Bengals? [Video]

Why were the Ravens allowed to run out the clock by intentionally holding the Bengals? [Video]
Baltimore punter Sam Koch stands in the end zone with the ball to end the Nov. 27 game against Cincinnati on a safety. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)

The Baltimore Ravens held on for a 19-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.


Check out the bizarre, but legal, strategy Coach John Harbaugh’s team used to run out the final seconds of the game:

Clinging to a 19-12 lead with 11 seconds remaining in regulation, the Ravens lined up to punt on fourth down from their own 23. But punter Sam Koch never even attempted the kick. Instead, he just backed up near the end zone and just danced around as the clock wound down.

Koch was able to do so because all nine Cincinnati defenders who were attempting to rush him were being held by Baltimore players. By the time he finally stepped out of the end zone for a safety, no time remained. And while games can’t end on defensive penalties, they do on offensive ones — apparently even when almost all the offensive players on the field are committing a foul.

“I thought our guys did a great job,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said. “Part of the deal was just identifying all of their men, because if we misidentify on the count and leave one guy running through there, he’s going to get to Sam, and there’s going to be very little time off the clock. Everybody did a great job of communicating.”

The NFL clarified after the game that the tactic could have been declared a “palpably unfair act” — which would have reset the clock to its original time before the play — only if the Ravens had attempted it twice in a row.

Cincinnati Coach Marvin Lewis appeared to be shaking his head on the sideline after the play. Following the game, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said it was a "smart play."

The Ravens have pulled the stunt before. With 12 seconds remaining and a five-point lead over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, Koch was able to run eight ticks off the clock before taking the safety.

"Even though it may only happen once or twice in four years, it's something that we practice yearly and we make sure we have all of our stones unturned,” Koch said, “and when situations like that arrive, we can have them at our disposal."

Twitter: @chewkiii