My final look at “Scoreboard Gate” in New England

January 25, 2012 | Drew Forrester

My final look at “Scoreboard Gate” in New England

Who gets the blame?

Cundiff has accepted it all, saying over and over, “I’ve made that kick a thousand times.  I just missed this one.”

Harbaugh could have called a time-out, but as I explained above, he wasn’t really aware that Cundiff (and Koch) were confused by the scoreboard.  And once they started out on the field with the clock ticking down from 21…to 20…to 19…it appeared to Harbaugh that this routine wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

Cundiff, too, could have called a time-out, but as he explained afterwards, “I just figured we’d move things along a little more quickly and I’d have to be ready a second or two earlier than normal.”

It turns out the kick and the result would be anything but normal.

Everyone around town is trying to find someone to blame.  Someone has to wear the scarlet letter – “M” for miss – and deal with the aftermath of being the guy who cost the Ravens a possible trip to the Super Bowl.

There’s no way we can tuck away the final moments of the 2011 season without having someone to fire, or cut, or chastise.

What happened at the end of the game is something that will never be duplicated again.

Never.

You can blame the Boldin fumble that had some people confused, the scoreboard snafu, the Evans “strip”, the Flacco incompletion to Pitta, Rosburg’s inability to see that the scoreboard had the wrong set of downs displayed, the failure of Harbaugh to understand that Cundiff was confused, or Cundiff himself for misfiring on the biggest kick of his career.

And you can certainly say “someone should have called a time-out”.  But these men work under pressure every day of their lives.  To their trained eye – and I’m talking about Harbaugh and Cundiff here – things might have looked a little out of whack as the kicker settled into his spot, but they practice being under pressure all the time.

There’s no doubt that all of the circumstances I reviewed above contributed to Baltimore losing on Sunday night.

It’s the worst perfect-storm in the history of the Ravens.

IF only the scoreboard would have accurately portrayed what down it was.

IF only Lee Evans would have held onto the ball for another half-second or so.

IF only Joe Flacco would have scooted a few yards for a first down when given the chance .

IF only Billy Cundiff would have somehow realized it wasn’t 3rd down, but 4th instead.

IF only he would have made the kick.

I know you want someone to take the blame.

I’m not sure what happens when someone DOES take the blame…like Cundiff has.  Do you want him cut?  What about Harbaugh?  What’s his punishment for not calling a time-out?  What to do with Rosburg, the man in charge of the unit that failed at the end?  Does he get the boot if you’re running the team?

We do this a lot – as sports fans, or sports analysts.  We look for someone to blame.  But what happens AFTER we’ve figured out who to finger for the failure?  Fire Harbaugh?  Fire Rosburg?  Cut Cundiff?  I don’t think anyone deserves to be fired or cut, but I will acknowledge that my thirst for blood probably doesn’t equal yours.

What about the scoreboard operator in New England?  What happens with him/her?

I’m as sick as anyone about how Sunday night unfolded, but I’m here to tell you that there’s absolutely no one in particular to blame for the failed kick at the end except for the guy who did the kicking.  It’s Cundiff’s job to kick that ball through the uprights and he didn’t do it.  I wouldn’t cut him if I ran the team…not for one miss.  I accept his explanation about his altered routine, since the Ravens have confirmed the scoreboard faux pas by virtue of watching the “All-22″ video that shows every play in the game along with the down and distance of the scoreboard.  If you’re looking to say, “This is how the kick was missed”, just point the finger at Cundiff and say, “He didn’t get the job done.”

Cundiff is more than willing to take the blame, as kickers often do.

Or…you can blame anyone or anything else, because that’s usually what fans do.

I get it.

It was a helluva way to lose a championship game.

You’ll never see something like that happen again, guaranteed.

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20 Comments For This Post

  1. The "Armchair QB" Says:

    Post Mortems don’t change outcomes and are really pointless as a result. Rather than assess blame, Ray Lewis has the right attitude when he says, “We win as a team and we lose as a team”! That being said, when discussing coaching responsibilities in general terms, the “buck stops” with the head coach who bears the responsibilty of either delegating duties or assuming them himself. If, in fact, chaos and confusion on the sidelines is the norm in the NFL, it’s the head coach’s responsibility to see that it’s controlled!

  2. joe of bel air Says:

    Of all the scenarios you described in your blog the one that I keep replaying in my head over and over is the 3rd down incompletion to Pitta, moreso than the Evans strip or the Cundiff shank. I wish that Cam would have called for Joe to roll out, pick up the first down and try to get out of bounds, thus preserving their last timeout. They would have then had 15-18 seconds left and could have tried at least 2 shots into the endzone for the win. Even had Joe been tackled in bounds they could gave called their last timeout and took at least one more shot into the endzone. Why their first concern wasn’t in getting the first down is a mystery to me.

  3. unitastoberry Says:

    Old timers still talk about a field goal that was ruled good in a playoff game between the Baltimore Colts and the Green Bay Packers in 1966.The kick was wide but with the old school goal posts it was hard to tell back then. The next year the league raised the posts to their current level and put 2 officials under them. My point is its a done deal,get over it Billy and move on. Thats sports.

  4. Jim Says:

    I am not on the Cundiff witchhunt or anything… but ask yourself the question. If the AFCC game is only the line next year, and Billy is called out to kick a 42yd FG to win the game, do you have faith he can do it? I don’t b/c he proved that he can’t handle the pressure. PKs and the FG team practice rushing onto the field for a quick FG all the time. 32yd is automatic for an NFL PK. The way he hooked it so badly just proved that the pressure got to him. Love ya Billy… but sorry, gotta move on.

  5. barnyard Says:

    I’m sorry but Evans catch should have been ruled a TD. He came down with the ball, turned his body & a total of two steps were taken in addition to having already crossed the goal line. If this isn’t a catch then last week against the Broncos Gronkowski’s catch shouldn’t have been ruled a TD as he juggled the ball & fell on it essentially trapping the ball. Harbaugh must have had a brain fart Sunday cause as a former special teams coach he should have know exactly what the deal was & called a time out. As for Cundiff, he cost us the game by giving the Patriots good filed position all day long with his sh*tty kickoffs while we were starting every kickoff on the 20yd line. Starting at the 30 40 yard line enabled the Patriots to score more easily with field goals & TD’s. Check it out.

  6. Kevin Says:

    Here is what I walk away with from this game and the season. Joe Flacco is the REAL DEAL and has everything it takes to lead a good TEAM into the Superbowl and win. Watching four top shelf Qbs work on Sunday, if I had to pick one to lead my new expansion team, it would be #5.
    Billy Cundiff did what Billy Cundiff has a habit of doing. He just cannot be depended on to do the job when it really counts. I would not fire him for this miss, I would simply shake hands and bid him good luck based on the body of his NFL career.
    Based on the Season, I see that the Ravens need O line help, another solid pass rusher and maybe an additional stud reciever. Lee Evans was not much help throughout the season, and I think that is his shortcoming. He just does not have what it takes to stay healthy and produce for an entire season. I am not saying cut him, but you cannot go forward believing that next year things will be all that different.
    I’ll end by saying thank you to all of the Ravens and the entire organization for the joy they bring to us in Bmore every fall. God Bless you all and be well.

  7. gc Says:

    kick wouldn’t have mattered if evans was able to hang onto the ball for a touchdown rather than the Pat’s “DB MAKING A GREAT PLAY in the Endzone AND KNOCKING IT AWAY”…..yeah, thats what I thought!!!!

  8. Hodge Says:

    How can the coach of the other team sense the confusion on our bench but our coach can’t ? It was not a perfect storm it is just ANOTHER poorly managed game by our coach. Maybe we can mount that time out on the wall at the Castle.

  9. barnyard Says:

    By the way per your caller this morning, Harbaugh should have addressed the media & public instead of being a weasel & slink out of town. A real lack of leadership & a fairy” move on his part. I’ just lost a lot of respect for him for that move. We all at times have to suck it up & face situations we would rather not at times. I’m not advocating a change but his content of character just dipped on my list. Harbaugh happens to be a decent coach, not a great coach. He has a damm good team & a super GM in Ozzie to thank for his good fortune.

  10. FRANCHISE Says:

    Glen,

    Thank you for the well-written, concise and accurate factual events:

    “The Perfect Storm”—Please blame me for the Ravens AFC Championship Game Loss since I agree these sequence of events will never happen again.—The football gods played a nasty trick on me for prematurely leasing Mayflower Vans prior to the outcome of the AFC championship Game on Sunday…..I RUSHED this transaction to procure Mayflower Vans simply to be prepared for my tailgating extravaganza to the IRSAY Oil Drum Dome for the weekend of February 3-5….Sorry Ravens fans….It was all my fault!!!

    Regards,

    FRANCHISE

    PS—I am now an Ex-Yankee Fan and have become a Baltimore Oriole fan as a virgin sacrafice to the football gods for my request for a second AFC Championship Lamar Hunt Trophy and Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy

  11. FRANCHISE Says:

    My apologies for the opening greeting to Glen—My comment should have been written to Drew and not Glen!!!—-Forgive me, I am still in counseling so I don’t jump from the Delaware Memorial Stadium Bridge!!!

    Franchise

  12. Joe Says:

    Asked on Boston radio station WEEI Monday if he considered calling a timeout to “freeze” Cundiff, Belichick 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.”

    Obviously Belichick was able to determine that a timeout might have helped. Of course there is no way to know if it would have helped but at least his is the perspective of a man that has logged much time of the chaotic sidelines you describe. His opinion is not that of the average fan.

  13. Turk Says:

    Crazy ending but did anyone see what I saw. I know about a fumble forward rule and you cant advance the ball. I remember the Raider-SD game that changed that 25 years ago. BUT I RECORDED THE GAME AND HAVE SEEN THE CROSSING PATTERN TO BOLDIN 10 TIMES AND I SWEAR HE GOT TACKLED ON THE 12.5 YARD LINE BEFORE THE FUMBLE CAME OUT AND ROLLED TO THE 8 YD LINE. The refs, confused by the fumble, spotted it back to the 14 yd line – the first down line was exactly the 13. This missed spot caused all the confusion and cost us a fresh set of downs. Noone is talking about this. I will look again tonight but very upset that a ref’s spot may have aided us from losing out on a SB Trip! Just brutal!

  14. Phil Says:

    Well written! Just like all the other impossible finishes we have seen over the years with teams winning and losing in dramatic fashion this game becomes part of the LORE of the NFL…and is also part of the LURE of the NFL. It hurts we lost but this is why we all love the NFL so much. There is nothing like it and as much as we look forward to the playoffs and seeing who’s in who’s out…I lament the end of the regular season. It’s just so entertaining and fun each week. Can’t wait until training camp. We will be back.

  15. Justafan Says:

    I don’t agree with some who say that Billy Cundiff can’t kick a field goal under pressure. The game in Pittsburgh against the Steelers, with the score tied 6-6, he kicked a 50 plus yards field goal on the final play of the first half to give the Ravens a 9-6 lead. As I recall, the Ravens won the game by 3 points.

  16. FRANCHISE Says:

    Turk,

    Please review the tape tonight on your spot comment above on Boldin’s crossing pattern fumble forward to the 8 yaard line….First down is the 13 yard line; tackled at the 12 and 1/2 yard line; officiating crew spotted at the 14 yard line.

    If your analysis is accurate I am going to file a full federal investigation with Congress that the National Fixed League is corrupt!!!

    Regards,

    No Challenge by the Booth upstairs with under 2 minutes remaining in the game to get the spot correct???!!!—”The Perfect FIX”

  17. PghSteve Says:

    I just wonder why the rush? Why not let the clock run down to 3 seconds and call a timeout so that the Pats have no time to even consider a kickoff return or a ‘Hail Mary’ pass after a successful FG? It’s not like the Ravens needed to save a timeout.

  18. PghSteve Says:

    OK, I looked at the tape and see that the play clock was down to around 1-2 seconds when the ball was snapped on the FG try, so running the game clock to 3 seconds would not have worked. Still, why the rush on what was arguably the biggest play of the Ravens almost great season?

  19. Rob Says:

    Drew,
    Thanks for the great read. Coming from a neutral observer, that was a very good impartial look at what transpired.

    Every NFL game has a winner and a loser. Often times the result is decided on a single event or sequence of events tbat lead to an unusual ending, which is what happened here.

    About the only thing I disagree with is when you say it will never happen again. Maybe not this EXACT scenario, but certainly another and possibly even stranger scenario will occur somewhere in the future, when Raven fans have long put this loss in the memories.

  20. steve Says:

    boo hoo!!!!

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