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Ravens intentionally committed egregious holding penalties to beat the Bengals

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The Ravens beat the Bengals by doing something you’re supposedly not supposed to do in football.

The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to take first place in the AFC North. A strip sack of Andy Dalton effectively ended the game, but the Bengals still had two timeouts when the Ravens retook possession with roughly a minute left in the game. The Ravens didn’t want to give the Bengals a chance to run another offensive play, much less potentially block a punt, so head coach John Harbaugh got clever.

On fourth-and-8 with 11 seconds left in the game, punter Sam Koch took the long snap ... and just held the ball. Up front, the Ravens blockers did everything they could to make sure Bengals rushers couldn’t get to Koch, even if it meant committing egregious holding fouls.

No game can end on a defensive penalty. That’s not the case for offensive penalties, however. If the Bengals could have accepted the penalties, they would have had a chance to block a backed-up Ravens punting unit, but the Ravens were able to run out the clock. They earned a 19-14 win after Koch finally took a safety.

This isn’t the first time the Ravens have pulled this move. They also did it in Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, Koch took the snap with 12 seconds remaining in the game and was able to milk eight seconds off the clock as he milled around in the end zone.

Koch eventually stepped out of bounds to concede two points, and left the 49ers virtually no time to score again in what became a 34-31 win.

* * *

While the ending was certainly weird, the story of the fourth quarter was how the Ravens tormented Dalton and the Bengals offense.

The Ravens defense forced three strip sacks. The last effectively sealed the game. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil ripped past Bengals right tackle Eric Winston and hooked Dalton’s arm from behind, giving the Ravens possession after the Bengals had driven into the red zone down 19-12 for a potentially game-tying touchdown.

The Ravens are now 6-5 overall, the same as the Pittsburgh Steelers, their division rivals. They have sole possession of first place in the AFC North because they beat the Steelers in their first meeting this season.