The Baltimore Ravens put up quite a fight without Lamar Jackson, but they ultimately fell just short in a playoff showdown against the reigning AFC champions.
The Cincinnati Bengals escaped the AFC Wild Card Game with a 24-17 victory on Sunday at Paycor Stadium and will face the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round. Yet their chances at a second consecutive Super Bowl were hanging in the balance until the final play even though Jackson was sidelined with a knee injury.
Baltimore started its final drive down seven at the Cincinnati 46-yard line with more than three minutes remaining but took a seemingly casual approach to the possession and didn't use its timeouts until it was too late.
Tyler Huntley had to throw a de facto Hail Mary as a result, as the 10-play, 19-yard drive ended in unceremonious fashion and plenty of criticism for head coach John Harbaugh's clock management:
The clock management wasn't the only thing that stood out in Sunday's game, as the Ravens had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter with a goal-to-go situation. Yet that possession turned into a 98-yard Sam Hubbard fumble recovery to break the tie and put the Bengals ahead for good.
It undercut an otherwise solid showing for the visitors, who were fighting an uphill battle with Jackson once again sidelined. The last time he played was a Dec. 4 win over the Denver Broncos, and he tweeted Thursday that his knee "remains unstable" because of a Grade 2 PCL sprain that is close to a Grade 3 injury.
Sam Hubbard takes the fumble 98 yards for the TD ‼️<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BALvsCIN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BALvsCIN</a> on NBC<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/hNJJJGqxGF">https://t.co/hNJJJGqxGF</a> <a href="https://t.co/PoVImXrfpz">pic.twitter.com/PoVImXrfpz</a>
Huntley played well for stretches with touchdown passes to Demarcus Robinson and J.K. Dobbins, the latter of which used his full extension to reach the goal line in an incredible effort. The backup quarterback also used his legs to hurt Cincinnati's defense, and Dobbins accounted for more than 100 yards while putting the team on his back for stretches.
The formula of controlling the clock and using long, methodical drives to keep Joe Burrow on the sideline almost worked until the fumble, and ironically, poor clock management proved to be the Ravens' undoing.
They will surely think about their missed chances throughout the offseason.