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Forced to punt from deep in their territory with a seven-point lead over Cincinnati and 11 seconds remaining, the Baltimore Ravens weren’t about to risk a fluke fumble or a blocked kick.

So they ordered their linemen to keep the Bengals away from punter Sam Koch by any means necessary, including holding. The plan worked perfectly , with Koch catching the snap at his 15-yard line, casually dropping back toward the goal line, shuffling to his right and then backing out of the end zone to take the safety after draining the clock and avoiding any contact.

The line of scrimmage during the strange play looked like a high school wrestling tournament, missing only the rubber mats. A half-dozen Baltimore blockers each engaged with a Cincinnati rusher with a bear hug that in some cases resulted in a full takedown. Yellow flags flew from the officials like confetti from a crowd, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh knew the rule.

The game can end on a penalty by the offense, unlike an infraction against the defense, and that’s exactly what happened in the 19-14 decision that kept the Ravens in first place in the AFC North.

“I thought our guys did a great job,” 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. They were moving and shifting like they are well coached to do.”

As linebacker Terrell Suggs reminded Harbaugh, the play Sunday wasn’t the best intentional safety in Ravens history. With a 34-29 lead over San Francisco in the Super Bowl four years ago, facing fourth down in the shadow of the end zone and the game almost over, Koch ran around to kill time and was pushed out of bounds with 4 seconds left. That prompted a free kick that essentially put the game out of reach.

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