NFL won't investigate scoreboard issue at end of AFC championship game

Ravens players have said there was confusion caused by discrepancy in scoreboard, on-field markers

January 26, 2012|By Chris Korman

The NFL is not currently investigating the apparent scoreboard discrepancy at Gillette Stadium that caused confusion on the Ravens' sideline in the final seconds of their 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC championship game.

A source close to the situation said Tuesday night that the league has not received a complaint from the Ravens, and that its on-site football operations crew did not notice anything that would warrant follow-up.

Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff appeared to rush onto the field before missing a 32-yarder that would have tied the game. He would later confide to Stefan Fatsis, writing for Slate and Deadspin, that his pre-kick routine -- which is based on what down it is -- was mangled because the scoreboard was a down behind the actual play on the field.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs told ESPN the last-minute drive was marred by miscommunication that stemmed from confusion caused by a difference in what the scoreboard said and what officials on the field were saying about the down and distance.

Cundiff's kick did come after a frantic sequence:

  • Anquan Boldin caught a pass on the right sideline, gained nine yards and reached the Patriots' 14-yard-line, where he fumbled the ball forward, past the first-down marker, and out of bounds at the 10.
  • Because the ball can't advance on a fumble, it was moved back to the 14. Some Ravens players didn't realize it had been spotted there, though, and thought it was first down.
  • On the next play -- second down, with 27 seconds left in the game -- Flacco hit Lee Evans with a beautiful pass to the right side of the end zone. And Evans, maybe you recall, had the ball stripped by Sterling Moore.
  • On third down, Flacco was chased toward the right sideline and tried to squeeze a pass to tight end Dennis Pitta. But it was knocked away by Moore.
  • Cundiff, who told Fatsis that he usually moves toward the sideline on third down, came scampering onto the field. The video shows him running down the middle of the field -- as if he had not been gathered with the team in a position more parallel to the play -- with just 13 seconds on the play clock. He isn't lined up to kick until there are only 5 seconds on the clock, and the ball is snapped with only 2 seconds left. The rest, you already know.

For what it's worth, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said after the game that he did not consider calling a time out there because the play "didn't feel rushed" on the field.

Harbaugh also issued a statement Wednesday, refuting the notion that the Ravens were confused.

“We knew what the down and distance were on our last series," he said. "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.”

Also, several people in attendance Sunday said that it was not unusual for the scoreboard to be late in reflecting what was actually happening on the field, especially during the more frenetic sequences.

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