The New England Patriots are focused on the New York Giants, their upcoming opponent in Super Bowl XLVI. That push forward to what’s next on the NFL’s schedule hasn’t stopped some from clinging to a close and tough AFC Championship loss. According to those at the game, the Patriots’ scoreboard read third down when it was actually fourth down, and the Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff was rushed onto the field when the error was realized. The general feeling is that the field goal operation was rushed, with even Bill Belichick saying after the game that the Ravens were, “a little late making the substitution,” and that, “they might have even lost track of the downs.”
Now, nobody had suggested or alluded to the scoreboard issue was done on purpose, until Ravens kicking consultant Randy Brown did so when speaking with a Philadelphia radio station. “I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?” he responded when asked if the incorrect down was done purposely. Sour grapes? In reality, correct or incorrect down on the scoreboard, purposeful or not, any blame lies squarely on the Ravens if in fact a rush job caused Cundiff to miss his kick.
Probably the biggest excuse-buster is the fact that the Ravens had a timeout in their pocket. Had things been rushed, if they got the down wrong, coach John Harbaugh should have used the timeout.Players are allowed to call timeouts as well, so Cundiff certainly could have called it if he felt he wasn’t ready yet. Harbaugh was asked about the timeout usage, or lack thereof, after the game.
Asked if he thought about using a timeout in that situation, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said after the game, “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.”
Next, and this goes back to coaching, a good coach and his staff does not pay attention to the scoreboard in terms of anything but the score and the official time. Officials are supposed to monitor the clock and there is an official time keeper that makes sure the clock is right. One of the first things I was told when I coached high school by my head coach was to not pay attention to anything on the scoreboard and to rely on our own tracking, namely on downs and timeouts. If that’s done on the high school level, it certainly must be done on the professional level with loads of coaches and assistants roaming the sidelines. I’m not insinuating that John Harbaugh is not a good coach, because I think he is one of the better coaches in the NFL. However, if the Ravens lost track of the downs, that’s a coaching failure.
Let’s not forget that there are down markers on the field as well. If you’re going to rely on anything, that would be the better resource to rely on as opposed to looking at the scoreboard. Winning a football game is a collective effort from the front office to the coaching staff to the players. No matter what excuses some may wish to toss out there, the Baltimore Ravens as a whole lost the AFC Championship game. It was a great game, but the better team, the #1 seed, is moving on this time.