Ravens’ Chuck Clark appeared to use intentional offside penalty loophole in loss to Patriots

Chuck Clark’s tap of Ryan Izzo’s butt is what gave him away.

The Ravens defensive back was called for an offside penalty late in the Ravens’ 23-17 loss to the Patriots on Sunday night. But the penalty actually increased Baltimore’s chances of getting the football back for Lamar Jackson with time for a comeback. While neither Clark nor Ravens coach John Harbaugh seems to have been asked about the play postgame, it appears to have been a galaxy-brain maneuver by Clark to take the penalty for the good of his team.

New England, leading by six points, had a second-and-2 at its own 37-yard line with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Baltimore had just used its second timeout. The most likely scenario of ensuing plays would’ve included the Patriots getting a first down, then running the ball three more times after that for a total of four clock-sucking plays with only one timeout and the two-minute warning to stop the clock.

Clark’s penalty essentially accelerated that timeline. It gave up the first down that the Patriots were likely to achieve anyway. Now, if Baltimore’s defense could hold, New England would run three plays prior to punting (with still the two-minute warning and a timeout to stop the clock, meaning it’d only run after one play). If Clark hadn’t tapped Izzo to ensure the flag was thrown and had instead scrambled to get back onside, it may have appeared as a player just jumping across the line too early. But that flag-ensuring contact seems to cement the idea that it was all on purpose. 

The Ravens’ defense did its part and stopped the three New England runs that followed the penalty. The Patriots punted back to Baltimore with 1:05 on the clock. If Clark hadn’t been penalized and New England had run for a first down on that second-down play, and then the following plays remained the same, the clock would’ve been inside 30 seconds when New England punted. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick actually may have considered whether to accept the offside penalty, if he too got the sense of what Clark was doing. But even in that scenario, taking the automatic first down from the five-yard penalty would be tough to turn down.

The apparently intentional offside didn’t lead to a Baltimore win, though, in part because the heaviest rainfall of the night descended upon Gillette Stadium while Jackson tried to lead the Ravens down the field. But Clark’s penalty did give Baltimore a better opportunity.

It’s not the first time Clark has taken an apparently intentional penalty. He did similarly in 2019 against the Bills, seemingly because the Ravens’ defense wasn’t set.

Clark was also in the news recently for his fumble-return touchdown against the Colts. He was the player who Philip Rivers tried (and failed miserably) to tackle while tripping over the turf monster.

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