Ravens safety James Ihedigbo surmised he could do one of two things as he walked to the sideline after Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green caught a Hail Mary pass that had deflected off his hands.
He could hang his head after the "bone-head move" or he could make another big play — like the two he made earlier in Sunday's game — and help the Ravens escape with a victory.
In overtime, with the Bengals going for it on fourth-and-2, Ihedigbo did the latter. After Giovani Bernard caught a short swing pass, Ihedigbo flew into the flat to deny Bernard the first down. Bernard slipped out of his grasp, but his teammates swarmed the running back and tackled him for an 11-yard loss.
"That fourth down was a key stop," Ihedigbo said. "The defense rallied, ran their butts off to the ball and we bottled them up to give our offense great field position. That's what it's all about. You've got to make plays. That's what people remember."
That play, coupled with kicker Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal, bailed out Ihedigbo after his costly mistake at the end of regulation and put the focus back on another strong performance by the strong safety. Ihedigbo had a pair of interceptions in the 20-17 win over the Bengals and led the Ravens with nine tackles, six of them solo.
"All I can say is playmakers make plays, and that's what matters," Ihedigbo said.
In the second quarter, with gusts of wind blowing across the field at M&T; Bank Stadium, Ihedigbo got his first career interception when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton sailed a ball over the head of tight end, Tyler Eifert, directly to Ihedigbo, who returned the interception 37 yards. Two plays later, the Ravens scored a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead.
Just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, with the Ravens clinging to a 17-10 lead, Ihedigbo picked off Dalton again. The quarterback targeted Green deep down the field. Fellow safety Matt Elam got a good jump on the ball and deflected the pass to Ihedigbo.
"He's been fighting his whole career for an opportunity like this," coach John Harbaugh said. "And he's making the most of it."
Ihedigbo's second interception gave the Ravens an opportunity to run out the clock, but they gained just nine yards on three runs, setting the stage for Green's game-tying touchdown. After a sack by strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil and a spike by Dalton, the Bengals had time for one desperate heave into the end zone from midfield.
Dalton stepped up in the pocket and threw as far as he could into the wind. A crowd gathered on the right side of the field as the pass traveled toward the end zone. It came down near the 5-yard line, deflected off the left shoulder of Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones and into the end zone.
Ihedigbo was supposed to linger behind the scrum, but he moved up to try to bat the ball down. Instead, he popped it up to Green, who was standing alone in the back of the end zone.
"I knew it was going to be short, so I moved up. Bone-head move," Ihedigbo said. "I just should have stayed back. It probably would have fell right in my lap. I saw it drifting and tried to slap it to the ground. It went up in the air. Easy touchdown."
On the Ravens sideline after the play, cornerback Jimmy Smith yelled at Ihedigbo. Later, as Smith spoke with reporters in a relieved but upbeat locker room, Ihedigbo interrupted Smith and asked, with a smile, "Did you tell them how you cussed me out?"
Jimmy responded: "That's just a little bit of frustration, but he came up big. He got two picks this game, made some great tackles, some great calls. I wasn't necessarily mad at him, just frustrated with the season, how it's going. I really wanted to get that win."
The Ravens would get it in overtime, thanks in part to another heady play from Ihedigbo. At the start of that critical fourth-down play, Ihedigbo recognized that the Bengals had run the same play earlier in the game. This time, he avoided a block to get in front of Bernard, the shifty rookie back.
"It's a great feeling," Ihedigbo said. "You want to be the guy to make the play. I was in an opportunity to do that and capitalized on it."