Eight months later, Ravens admit playoff-crushing play stings

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Thursday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals marks the first time these AFC North teams have faced each other since last season's finale, when Tyler Boyd's last-minute touchdown eliminated Baltimore from the playoff race.

How many times has safety Tony Jefferson watched that heartbreaking play?

"I don't think I've watched it," Jefferson said before pausing for five seconds. "Nothing to see there."

Before the winning score, the Ravens had a projected 93.4 percent chance to win. Baltimore was one defensive stop away from securing the franchise's first trip to the postseason since 2014.

Instead, the Ravens allowed a 49-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Boyd on a fourth-and-12, and they watched their season end in the most improbable way.

Cornerback Brandon Carr, who was among those trying to chase down Boyd, acknowledged that loss still lingers in the players' thoughts.

"If I were to say no, I'd be lying," Carr said. "We've still got that bitter taste in our mouths."

On the play, the Ravens decided to switch from man-to-man coverage to a Cover 2 (their two-deep alignment) and paid the price for it. Boyd found himself wide open at the Ravens' 25-yard line. No Ravens defender was within 5 yards of him.

After making the catch, Boyd outraced Carr, Eric Weddle and Maurice Canady to the end zone.

Asked whether that loss will serve as motivation, Harbaugh said, “Probably. How could it not be part of it? It’s just part of it. That’s life. It’s human nature. You always want to redeem yourself as best as you can, certainly, but it’s not going to factor into who wins the game. It’s not going to matter in the outcome. You still have to play better than your opponent on that day, and that’s really what we have to focus on. You could easily get all wrapped up in that and get distracted from what matters, which is going out there Thursday night and playing well.”

How unlikely was that season-ending play? Over the past decade, teams converted 18.2 percent of fourth downs of 12 yards or longer (75-of-412).

The Ravens won't be replaying that painful fourth-down play in any team meeting this week.

"We messed the play up," Harbaugh said. "They made a great play. Give them all the credit in the world for it. We did not make a good play. We played it not well. We’ve already looked at it from the standpoint of what needs to be better, so we’re moving on.”

This isn't the first time the Ravens have dealt with this devastation. In 2016, Baltimore's postseason hopes were squashed by a last-minute touchdown by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Ravens are looking to use these painful finishes as lessons going forward.

"I said this in OTAs and training camp: I expect us to be one of the best two-minute defenses in the league, and that was our goal," Weddle said. "I believe in it, and we’ll go out there and show it."