Why the Bengals’ crafty play against the Ravens was doomed from the start


CINCINNATI, Ohio — Cincinnati’s “Philly Special” fell short of its namesake in a 19-17 loss to the Ravens.

The Eagles made the gimmick famous by scoring a touchdown in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots and the city even built a statue honoring the moment.

Cincinnati’s version involved wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase taking a moving handoff and returning it to Tyler Boyd, who backed off with the intention of throwing quarterback Joe Burrow in the end zone.

Nothing went as planned for the Bengals.

“It’s a man-covered game design against a man-covered team,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said Monday.

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But the Ravens fell into a zone look that left corner Marcus Peters free to lock down Boyd and completely blow up the game.

Ravens safety Geno Stone had Burrow covered well and by the time Boyd was able to turn to his second read – Mike Thomas on a crossover pattern in the back of the end zone – Peters shoved him to the ground for a loss of 12 yards.

The Bengals turned him on tries two players later.

“They gave us this game,” Boyd said. “…If they were in the man, it probably would have worked out a little differently. I should have made a better call and kicked the ball, but I was trying to play.”

Boyd had success at quarterback at Clairton High School in Pennsylvania and is 3 for 5 assists in his career for 85 yards. His most recent achievement was a 23-yard pass to Ja’Marr Chase in a win over Miami.

“It’s natural, I’m not super precise or detailed like Joe, but I can get the job done,” Boyd said of his throwing motion, after beating the Dolphins.

The problem Sunday night against Baltimore was that he just didn’t have time to try to get the ball away with Peters preventing him.

“My thinking is a little fuzzy,” Boyd said.

Callahan spoke about the team’s trick-or-treating philosophy in the days leading up to the match, with both Boyd and Mixon having had assists in recent weeks. He said the gimmick rep is playing hard in training until the coaching staff have enough confidence in the key players involved to call them up.

The other factor is finding the right time to roll them out, or as Callahan described it last week as a “first kind of look.” That’s what Callahan and coach Zac Taylor thought they had Sunday night against the Ravens.

While Boyd blamed himself for the play that resulted in a big loss, that’s not how Taylor saw it.

“You’re rolling the dice there,” Taylor said. “…It’s not something that I put on TB, it’s something that you represent many times in training and in the game, it plays out a little differently than how it would have could have played out. It’s 100% on me because the game doesn’t work and our guys aren’t put in the best possible position. It’s not on TB.

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