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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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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, look 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, sildenafil 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.

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BALTIMORE (AP) — All that has transpired for the Baltimore Ravens this month has put them in position for, as safety Eric Weddle put it, “A December to Remember.”

The Ravens followed a winless October with a 3-1 November, capped by a 19-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Baltimore (6-5) climbed back into a tie with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North with five games to go.

“We have to win every game, we feel, this last stretch,” Weddle said.

The Bengals (3-7-1) feel the same way. The difference is, that might not be good enough to get them into the postseason for the sixth consecutive year.

“We have been able to control it ourselves. Now we need help,” coach Marvin Lewis said.

After spending five straight Decembers fighting for playoff position, Cincinnati is now in a situation where one more loss may end its postseason hopes.

“It starts to wear on you,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “I’m a winner. I’ve never been in this situation. But at the end of the day, when you’re a competitor you keep competing, especially when your back is against the wall.”

Some things we learned about the Ravens and Bengals on Sunday:

PERFECT AND IMPERFECT: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has been perfect in 11 games this year. After connecting from 52, 57 , 54 and 36 yards, Tucker is 27 for 27 and has made all 15 of his conversion attempts.

It was the 11th time Tucker has kicked at least four field goals in a game. Baltimore is 10-1 when that happens.

“To be on this kind of roll is good, but it doesn’t end today,” Tucker said. “Hopefully this is something that would help carry our team all the way to the playoffs.”

Tucker’s counterpart Sunday, Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent, missed his third straight extra point try (over two games) and has misfired on four of 23 conversion attempts this year.

TIPPING HIS HAND: A handful of Andy Dalton’s 22 incompletions came when Ravens defenders tipped his passes at the line of scrimmage, sending spirals everywhere but toward their intended targets.

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