By: Steve Balestrieri
The story of the missed kick by the Baltimore Ravens is taking on a life of its own in the press, eager to bring the slightest hint of impropriety on to Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Now the media and some members of the Ravens have tried to dredge up the long beaten to death images of Spygate by giving the impression that the Patriots cheated their way to the AFC title.
All of this started on the Ravens final drive, while Joe Flacco was attempting to put the Ravens in position to win or at least tie the game, he threw a first down pass to Anquan Boldin who was tackled at the Patriots 14 yard line. This is where things began to go awry. Boldin was hit by Julian Edelman and fumbled, the ball rolling out of bounds at the Patriots 10 yard line.
Baltimore initially thought the ball would be spotted there at the 10, but by rule the ball was placed at the spot of the fumble back at the 14 yard line. The officials placed the ball on the 14 where it was 2nd down and 1. The Patriots scoreboard incorrectly put up that the Ravens had a first and ten.
Billy Cundiff on the sideline said he was thinking it was first down when in fact it was not. On second down, Flacco’s pass to Lee Evans was narrowly knocked away by Sterling Moore in the endzone. Moore knocked away Flacco’s third down pass as well bringing up fourth down.
Cundiff seemed to be getting on the field very late and was rushed in getting set for the field goal perhaps still believing that it was third down. As a result, he hooked the 32 yard field goal badly, not even hitting the protective netting in the stands.
If Cundiff was rushed so much, the easiest answer to that would have been for the Ravens to call one of their two time outs in an attempt to give him time to get set, especially with the title game on the line.
John Harbaugh the Ravens Head Coach was asked if he thought to call a time out. “That never occurred to me. I didn’t think that. You know, looking back at it now, maybe there was something we could have done. But in the situation, it didn’t seem like we were that rushed on the field. I thought we were in pretty good shape.”
Bill Belichick noticed that the Ravens were rushed in the final substitution as well, telling WEEI in Boston, “I thought they were a little late making the substitution” he said. “I thought they sent it out a little bit late. It was 4th and 2, something like that. I thought, well, maybe they might have even lost track of the downs.”
Belichick also said, “It just seemed to me like they were rushing a little bit. I felt we were better off letting them go, letting them rush and handle it under pressure rather than give them a chance to settle down and get it all lined up properly.”
When everything began to hit the fan was when Randy Brown, the Ravens kicking coordinator was led right down the cheating path by Philadelphia radio commentator Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP. “The scoreboard was one down behind, the entire last three plays, from what we understand,” Brown said.
Cataldi knew exactly where he was going with the line of questioning and he led Brown straight to the point, when he asked if he thought the scoreboard issue could have been intentional on part of the Patriots.
“I don’t know,” he responded, “I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?” Brown answered. Brown also stated that they didn’t call timeout because they (Ravens) didn’t want to ice their own kicker like Dallas had earlier this season.
Brown said “I think we learned with Jason Garrett this year, you don’t want to call time out to ice your own kicker. … It was our belief that he was ready.”
Well if he was ready then why accuse the Patriots of deliberately trying to throw them off by improperly putting the wrong downs on the scoreboard. One thing to keep in mind, that most fans nearly besides themselves with not wanting to face the facts that their team lost fail to realize, is that the official down markers on the field were correct and on the Ravens sidelines. And more importantly, the Ravens coaches were in fact aware of the down.
Today John Harbaugh addressed this issue on the Ravens official web site which should have put this issue to rest once and for all.
“We knew what the down and distance were on our last series. The scoreboard was not a factor for us. Any suggestion that the wrong down information was a deliberate effort to affect the outcome of the game is nonsense.”
Will this stop the “Scoreboard Gate” nonsense going on in the media and on the internet? Very doubtful…America loves to imagine a “large right wing conspiracy” especially when it comes to Belichick and the Patriots.
Bottom line is, had Cundiff made the kick, the scoreboard issue wouldn’t even be discussed today. Should have called timeout…..