When the Ravens took over their last possession in Sunday night’s playoff game against the Bengals, they had a pair of timeouts and 3:14 left on the clock.
But Baltimore’s offense showed a curious lack of urgency in trying to get down the field and score, even though the possession started at Cincinnati’s 46-yard line. After the two-minute warning, the Ravens got a first down on a run from Tyler Huntley and the clock stopped with an illegal use of hands penalty. But then Huntley hit running back J.K. Dobbins for an 11-yard gain and the clock went all the way down to 34 seconds before the Ravens ran another play.
Baltimore ended up running out of time and downs, as Huntley’s pass on fourth-and-20 fell incomplete in the end zone.
After the game, head coach John Harbaugh said, “the idea there was to save the timeouts for the red zone.”
“I think the thing that killed us was the holding penalty, which knocked us back,” Harbaugh said in his press conference. “The idea was, ‘We’ve got time.’ We want to keep those timeouts to throw the ball. So, we tried to pop a run there; we’re going to call a timeout after that. Then, we still have run-pass options.
“[W]e wanted to score without giving the ball back. We think we’re going to be in the red zone; we think it’s going to be just a certain number of plays and it’s going to work right down to the end of the game. Rather than maybe you score with 30-35 seconds, [and] you give them a chance to go kick a field goal at the end.
“So, I think we played it right. It didn’t work out in the sense that after, we had incomplete passes, so you’re not going to have a chance to call them [timeouts]. If you complete the passes, you get the ball back in the red zone, [and] you call the timeouts. So, from an elementary level, you could say, ‘They should have called the timeouts,’ but we had the timeouts worked out right.”
Scoring without giving the ball back is a tough needle to thread and the Ravens didn’t end up doing it. The team will have time to go over what it could have done differently to change the outcome of the game for the rest of the offseason.