The Ravens needed one more stop.
They were clinging to a three-point lead as the Cincinnati Bengals took over possession with only two minutes, 43 seconds left to play. The Bengals had the ball at their own 10-yard line with one timeout left, but they drove 90 yards in 11 plays to pull off an improbable victory that shocked the Ravens and ended their season.
"We weren't good enough," safety Eric Weddle said.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton picked apart Baltimore's defense to get to midfield – he was also aided by a pair of critical penalties – and then connected with wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a 49-yard game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-12 with 53 seconds remaining.
Boyd was wide open when he caught the pass over the middle – he even said after the game he was surprised at how open he was – and then outran Weddle, Maurice Canady and Brandon Carr to the end zone.
"We were debating on the call," Weddle said. "We obviously played zone. We were playing man the entire series, so we wanted to give them a different look. We didn't play it correctly. The safety to that side drops; they made a play. It's hard."
"Tough play, tough break," Canady added. "It's football. Things happen. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen in our favor."
Dalton had time to throw and delivered the pass just over the outstretched hands of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. The Bengals called timeout right before that fourth-down play, and that's when they decided to go with that play call.
"The Ravens were in soft-zone coverage," Dalton said. "It was fourth-and-12 and we were just trying to get that first down. When I went over to the sideline before the play, Marvin Lewis and I both thought that this was a play that could work."
The play left M&T Bank Stadium and the Ravens sideline in shock. They just had their playoff hopes dashed in what Terrell Suggs described as the most devastating regular-season loss of his career, and it came in similar fashion to other late-game defensive breakdowns in recent years.
"He made a great throw," Suggs said. "Hey man, it sucks. Tomorrow, everybody is going to be an expert. [They will say], 'Oh they should have done this. They should have done that.' I've said it before: Victory has 1,000 fathers, but defeat is an orphan."
Before the touchdown, Dalton dinked-and-dunked up the field with short passes on the drive. He hit running back Giovani Bernard for 3 yards, Boyd for 9 and wide receiver A.J. Green for 11.
The Bengals also got a pair of first downs because Carr was flagged for defensive pass interference against wide receiver Brandon LaFell and cornerback Marlon Humphrey drew a holding call while defending Green. The holding call was particularly significant because it wiped off an interception by Weddle that would have ended the game.
"I know I jumped right in front of him and I felt like we kind of just both collided, but the ref told me I pulled him down," Humphrey said. "I have to see it on film, but when the flag is thrown the refs are always right."
The Ravens will now head into the offseason trying to shake of the sting of one of the franchise's most* *crushing losses. They have missed the playoffs for the third-straight year, and they will have to find a way to avoid late-game breakdowns in the years to come.
"It's unfortunate, but these moments will build your character, build our identity, build our team for the future," Weddle said.
Check out all the photos from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens host the Bengals in week 17 of the 2017 season!