Marvin Lewis' fourth-down call helps Ravens

Marvin Lewis' fourth-down call helps Ravens
November 10, 2013, 5:45 pm
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Dumervil: Ravens stayed composed in overtime

If Alice, as in “Alice in Wonderland,” had been watching Sunday’s Ravens-Bengals game, she would have had an apt description for Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis’ decision that ended up costing his team the game in a 20-17 Baltimore win: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

(By the way, if Alice had been watching with the Queen of Hearts, Her Highness might have yelled out, “Off with his head” at both Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton for some of their throws.)

After the Bengals’ Hail Mary prayer of a pass was answered to send the game into overtime, Lewis made a strategic faux pas when Cincinnati took the first possession of OT and faced fourth-and-two from the Ravens’ 33.

Eschewing the field goal try seems perfectly understandable from a risk-reward standpoint — at 51 yards in gusty conditions, the Bengals didn’t necessarily have the best chance at success, and if they missed, the Ravens would get possession at their own 41. Plus, even if they made it, Baltimore would still get a chance on offense, because the game can’t end on a field goal by the team that gets the ball first in OT.

However, deciding to go for it rather than punting and possibly pinning the Ravens near their own goal line makes far less sense. The Bengals defense dominated the Ravens offense most of the day, so playing the field-position game and counting on forcing a three-and-out — which Cincinnati did five times on Sunday — was the much safer call.

Instead, the Bengals tried to pick up the first down with a short swing pass to running back Giovani Bernard, an often electrifying open-field runner who found himself completely cut off by the Ravens defense and, in trying to make a play, compounded the sin by doubling back and losing 11 yards. This set up the Ravens at their own 44, even better than a missed field-goal try would have done for Baltimore.

From there, the Ravens picked up 28 yards in seven plays before Justin Tucker hit the 46-yard field goal to win the game. Lewis wasn’t the holder, but he handed it to the Ravens nonetheless.