Plenty of you have pointed out that the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium showed that it was third down when the Ravens actually faced the fourth down that became a field goal attempt that then became a field goal failure that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl without having to win the game in overtime.
Ravens kicking consultant Randy Brown (yes, they actually employ a kicking consultant) had some potentially inflammatory remarks regarding the situation Tuesday morning on WIP radio in Philly.
“The scoreboard was one down behind, the entire last three plays, from what we understand,” Brown told our pal Angelo Cataldi. Asked if the Patriots did it on purpose, Brown said, “I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?”
Let’s humor Randy Brown, who was on the receiving end of a late-game shove from coach John Harbaugh that was caught on camera, and assume the Patriots instructed their scoreboard operator to pull a Jedi mind trick on the Ravens by screwing up the down. Why in the hell are the Ravens trusting the Patriots’ scoreboard operator to provide accurate information in crunch time of the AFC title game? If, as Brown contends, “I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England,” it would be foolish to presume that the Patriots haven’t deliberately botched with the down information.
Besides, why would the Ravens ever leave to chance the possibility that the scoreboard operator, accidentally or otherwise, has screwed up? The official down information is kept at field level, on those big orange sticks with the large number that reads 1, 2, 3, or 4.
The burden falls on both teams to at all times know what the down is. And if the Ravens choose to employ a “kicking consultant,” shouldn’t at a minimum the kicking consultant be consulting with the kicker as to when the kicker has to go out and kick?
Even if there’s any way to legitimately place blame on the Patriots for intentionally providing false down information to the Ravens via the scoreboard, the Ravens could have pressed pause on the process by calling a timeout. Instead, kicker Billy Cundiff became something akin to a participant in the Olympic skiing-and-shooting event known as the biathlon, running out to his position and then trying to regain his composure in time to put the ball through its target.
John Harbaugh spent nine years as the Eagles’ special-teams coordinator. If Harbaugh didn’t have the presence of mind to sense trouble and take a time out under those circumstances, the Ravens have no business suggesting that the Patriots in some way cheated.
That should be the end of the discussion, but the fact that Brown opted to throw stones at the Patriots could prompt a response from the league office. After all, the last time a team employee made off-the-cuff accusations regarding special-teams skullduggery, Jets owner Woody Johnson ended up calling Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross with an apology.