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John Harbaugh explains perplexing clock mismanagement in final moments of Ravens loss to Bengals

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The Baltimore Ravens season ended with a 24-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night.

Like the Miami Dolphins earlier Sunday, they are wrapping up the season after clock mismanagement cost them time.

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The Ravens found themselves in a rush situation in the final minutes of the game as they struggled to recover from a seven-point deficit. However, they gave them valuable time to count down and ended the game with a timeout they cannot take with them into the next season.

Why didn’t the Ravens take a timeout?

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Faced with first and tenth places, the Ravens went out to the Bengals’ 17-yard line, ending the game from Tyler Huntley to J.K. Dobbins. Officials blew the game with 1:09 left after Bengals defenders got on Dobbins just past the first down marker. The clock kept running. The Ravens had two timeouts but chose not to use any.

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The Ravens’ offense then huddled together and lined up for a pass. They eventually grabbed the ball with 33 seconds left, allowing 36 seconds to burn on the clock. From there, they played four more rallies, including a streak in which a penalty was awarded for an offensive hold. The fourth and 20th Hail Marys of the Cincinnati 27s did not take place and the game was over.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati, Sunday, January 15, 2023.  (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
John Harbaugh refused to call a timeout due to the expiration of valuable game hours. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

They didn’t walk away with both remaining timeouts in their holsters. They burned one with the clock already stopped after an incomplete transmission on third and 20th to set up the final game. This timeout went unused while the Ravens wasted most of the last minute of regular time.

Harbaugh’s explanation

After the game, Harbaugh explained his decision to reporters. He said the Ravens wanted to score without leaving the Bengals time on the clock and blamed the penalty holder for foiling his plan.

“We wanted to keep timeouts for the red zone,” Harbaugh said, according to Touchdown Wire. “What killed us is the retention penalty. It took us back…

“We wanted to score without giving the ball away. We think we will hit the red zone, we think it will be a certain number of rallies and we will work until the end. Instead of scoring 30-35 seconds before the end, you give them a chance to score a field goal at the end.

It’s an unforeseen circumstance that requires a lot of things to go absolutely right in a tense playoff situation and the backup quarterback to lead the offense. Instead of calling one of the two remaining timeouts when the clock is running against you. This is a classic case of overthinking a situation.

No wonder the plan didn’t work. It’s hard to say if this affected the outcome of the game after it ended in a bad game with a fourth fault. This certainly added undue pressure to a situation that the Ravens could have controlled. Add that to Baltimore’s offseason trouble list, which includes figuring out what’s going on with Lamar Jackson.


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