Explain Ravens-Browns Ending?

Can someone explain the last few plays of the Ravens-Browns game yesterday? Specifically, what happened with the clock? To Recap:

a) There was a pass to a Browns receiver who caught the ball in such a way that it looked like the ball touched the ground. I believe that was the issue. The commentators said the Browns could not challenge the initial ruling because the clock was under the 2 minute mark. Still, the refs reviewed the play* for quite some time determining it was a fair catch and a first down. They added like 3s to clock, and then took away 10s for something the commentator called a “10s runoff”. I am no sports buff, as you can probably tell, so please explain. (*So, did the Browns challenge the play anyhow, or are the refs just nice guys?)

b) Immediately after this, The Browns had to move the ball down field as best as possible for at least a shot at a field goal to win. The Ravens defense blocked three passes, and on the Brown’s last attempt, the Ravens intercepted. BUT!!! At this point, with 1:02 on the clock, the Ravens were posing for a team picture, and no one seemed concerned about playing anymore. It was like a done deal for the Ravens when, had the game continued, who can say if the Browns would not have intercepted and scored? The instant that interception happened, even the runner stopped running with the ball. What was all that about? Why did everyone allow the clock to simply run down? Did the Browns simply give up?

Very confused here. :confused: I’d be grateful for an explanation to this strange ending that impacted Pittsburgh’s play-off chances, too. “How bizarre, how bizarre.”

a) They were trying to determine whether or not the WR had made the catch. The Browns could not challenge, but they could call a timeout to “give the refs time” to review the play. Generally, by rule, once the next play has been run, the previous play can no longer be reviewed. Inside 2 minute left in either half, all reviews are initiated by the “booth.” Sometimes it takes “the booth” longer to decide to review a play than the teams on the field want to give them, so one of the teams will take a timeout to give them that time.

The 10 second runoff is explained here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-minute_warning#Rules

Basically this instance was because of “Instant replay overturns a call on the field and the correct ruling would not stop the game clock.”

b) When the Ravens intercepted the ball, there was 1:02 on the clock and the Browns only had 1 timeout left, IIRC. Everyone in the building knew that there was no way the Ravens were actually going to run a play, they were just going to kneel three times, so the game was essentially over the moment the INT occurred.

To elaborate on question 2 - the Browns had 1 time out left, meaning they could stop the clock one more time. The Ravens have 4 plays to run before they give the ball back to the Browns. Each running play that doesn’t go out of bounds takes 45 seconds off the clock. As long as the Ravens just kneel down after the snap the game is over in two plays, the Browns can’t do anything to stop it.

There would be no interception because the Ravens were just going to Victory Formation and kneel twice.

a) The ten-second runoff is required because the end of the play occurred inbounds and the review is not supposed to constitute a free timeout/stopping of the clock. It was determined that it takes a certain amount of time to bring everybody up to the new line of scrimmage and run a play and ten seconds was decided upon as the number. Note that they also started the clock right away after the ball was placed.

b) Cleveland didn’t have enough timeouts to keep the Ratbirds from running out the clock via Victory formation. Baltimore didn’t have to run a play. As for the celebrations, the No Fun League decided to let them have fun, even though the fun they’re having is tedious and dumb, but as long as they don’t use props they can now do whatever.

As for the Steelers’ playoff chances, the Rats won the division by virtue of total wins. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs by a half-game because of the tie. Had they lost the Steelers would have taken the division.

To elaborate, an offense has two ways for the quarterback to stop a play instantly and (almost always) safely once the ball is snapped.

  1. Spiking - The QB throws the ball directly into the ground. This is considered an incomplete pass. An incomplete pass stops the clock. This is used often when the clock is running, the offense needs to stop it, and is willing to sacrifice a down to do it. It’s especially handy if you want to save a timeout (another way to stop the clock) or have no timeouts to spare.

  2. Kneeling - If the QB ever goes down to the ground while holding the ball he is considered down (as if he was tackled) whether or not an opponent touches him. That’s why a QB who is running with the ball will often dive to the ground when a defender gets close to him. That’s a rule to protect the QB from injury. (Yes, QBs and kickers are special little snowflakes in football.) Well, if the QB kneels down as soon as he gets the ball, officially it is treated the same as if he was a runner who went down to the ground voluntarily. Anyone who goes down with the ball on the field (not going out of bounds) doesn’t stop the clock, so you can kneel, let the clock keep running, take your time to reform for the next play, wait until the last moment to snap it again, and repeat. There’s little the team can do about it and it’s pretty much a guaranteed way to run out the clock if your opponent doesn’t have enough time outs to prevent the clock from expiring.

Now these plays are generally safe but not without potential drama. Sometimes at the end of really intense games where teams get “chippy” (are insulting each other, getting extra rough, starting fights, etc.) the defense won’t just politely let it happen. They will rush the offense to sabotage it. I’ve never seen anything come of it so it’s essentially the losing team throwing a fit and being bad sports.

Sometimes a QB can fake a kneel or spike. There have been some famous moments where a team forms up to look like they are kneeling or spiking the football, and the QB fakes tossing the ball to the ground or kneels a bit without touching the ground. The unsuspecting defense doesn’t notice or isn’t in position to cover the offensive guy who runs down the field and the QB throws to him for a sneak touchdown. This kind of thing is rare but it has been done.

It’s also possible to screw it up. I remember seeing a rookie QB this year (can’t remember which one) who got confused and spiked when he was supposed to kneel. (Or vice versa? Again my memory is foggy.) Also a fumble (either a bad snap from the center or the QB having butterfingers) can blow either play.

Kirk Cousins did this at the end of the first half in a game against the Eagles a few years back.

Ok, about my 2nd question: If Baltimore did not have to run a play, isn’t that delay of game??? A lot can happen in a minute otherwise ALL games would just not bother playing the last minute. What about the 20s clock to get off the next play?

You’re misunderstanding what “running a play” means in this context. They didn’t have to run or throw the ball as they didn’t need to get a first down. All they had to do was run the play clock down to the last second and take a knee to run the clock out. In other words, a turnover was impossible barring the virtual impossibility of a bad snap in Victory formation.

There is a countdown clock that runs between plays; if the team with the ball doesn’t start the next play before the clock reaches zero, they get a penalty for delay of game. And the penalty stops the game clock, so a team can’t just take delay after delay to run out the last few minutes of a game they’re winning.

The countdown clock between plays is 45 seconds. If there really was a full minute left, Baltimore should have had to run at least one play. But as Atamasama described, they don’t have to do anything on the play except kneel down. It can be very anti-climactic. Maybe there wasn’t a full minute left, maybe the TV coverage didn’t show the final play, maybe you looked away and missed it.

Small corrections: when running, a quarterback will generally slide to give themselves up. As far as the giving up is concerned, both are perfectly valid, but a slide gives the runner protection from being hit, while diving headfirst does not. If a runner dives with the ball but is not touched, he is still ruled down at the spot, because he “gave himself up”. Also, ANY runner can take advantage of the slide protection - they just won’t play again for awhile, because running backs, receivers, tight ends, etc. are expected to get those extra yards instead of avoiding the contact.

I believe the play you are referring to was Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs late in the first half against the Browns this year. Chiefs had the ball, 1 timeout left, and were trying to get into FG position. They ran a play and completed a pass in the middle of the field with 8 seconds left and were hustling to get into position to spike the ball. But, Cleveland had been flagged for offsides on the play; even though KC didn’t accept the penalty, the clock was stopped until the next snap. But Mahomes lined up under center, took the snap, and spiked the ball. But because the clock wasn’t running, it was ruled intentional grounding. KC had to burn their timeout to avoid the 10 second runoff and ended up with nothing on the drive.

In short, the clock MUST be running for a spike to be legal.

Here’s an explanation of that play: https://sports.yahoo.com/ever-seen-mahomes-called-rare-penalty-spike-200352511.html

The official play-by-play shows two kneel downs, so I’m guessing TV didn’t bother showing it, or OP missed what they did show.

1st & 10 at BAL 39
(1:01 - 4th) L.Jackson kneels to BLT 38 for -1 yards.

2nd & 11 at BAL 38
(0:32 - 4th) L.Jackson kneels to BLT 37 for -1 yards.

I just watched the replay of the game on NFL network, and they definitely showed the kneel downs. But it was in between cuts of celebrating Ravens and depressed Steelers, and Nantz & Romo were talking about the playoff matchups, so it was easy to miss.

Seems like the wimp’s way to get into the play-offs. We’ll see if they can survive the wrath of the Chargers.

It’s call clock management, and it’s fundamental football at all levels. Complaining that a team used time correctly is like complaining that basketball is much easier for tall people. Good teams/coaches are often measured on how well they manage the clock.

Have you ever watched an NFL game?

In 1979 (I believe), the New York Football Giants were winning a game late in the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. With very little time left on the clock, the Giants merely needed to kneel down two times and the game was over.

On the second play, for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery, they attempted a hand-off instead. The ball was fumbled, the Eagles scooped it up and ran it back for a game-winning TD. In Philly, to this day, the play is referred to as the “Miracle at the Meadowlands.” In New York, it’s only referred to with swear words. Philly went on to finish the season 9-7 and got a wild card playoff spot.

Since that time, it has been a rare occurrence indeed that any professional or college team has failed to understand the importance of properly kneeling out the game.

Nearly half of NFL games end with the leading team taking a knee. The Chargers did it in 7 of their 12 victories. You really have no idea what you’re talking about.

No, the real manly way to win a game is to start by handing the ball to the other team a couple of times and letting them get up 14 points on you, so you can come back from behind and still kick their butts.

Which nobody ever does, because it would be stupid.

It’s basically the same thing as not playing the bottom of the 9th inning in baseball when the home team is winning.