Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh celebrates with the Vince Lombardi trophy after winning Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

With Self-Imposed Safety to End It, John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens Make Mockery of Super Bowl


It had been a hard-fought game, one as crazy and captivating as anyone had ever seen, but the Baltimore Ravens were just 11 seconds away from victory holding a five-point lead with 4th down oncoming. They lined up to punt and simply had to kick the ball out of bounds and stop a hail mary to seal a memorable Super Bowl XLVII victory. But instead, the punt number happened. Ravens coach John Harbaugh instructed punter Billy Koch to simply hold onto the ball, waste as much time as he could, and then step out of bounds for a safety, ending the game because the safety would give the Ravens the opportunity to do a free kick that would elapse the rest the rest of the type on the clock. That’s exactly what happened as the Ravens won the game 34-31. Harbaugh’s top priority had to be to win the game and seal Baltimore’s championship. But the Super Bowl is more than a game- there’s an element of honor involved, and in choosing to end the game the way he did, Harbaugh went starkly against that.

Why has there never been overtime in the Super Bowl? Because even if overtime was a possibility, coaches would rather risk it all going for the win because it’s the Super Bowl and if they don’t play aggressively, they don’t deserve to win. Did John Harbaugh really doubt that that his defense could stop one hail mary? Wow, what the perfect way to end Ray Lewis‘ career, with his coach doubting his ability to stop one of the least likely plays to succeed in all of sports. This isn’t the classic situation of a team being on the opponent’s one yard line down a field goal with one second to go but decides to go for the touchdown deciding that they didn’t deserve to win the game if they couldn’t go one yard. Harbaugh and the Ravens had quite nearly blown a 22-point lead, but while they had wilted they had refused to break and were about to cap off a win they would know they deserved. Instead, he took the easy way out, taking no chances but also saying that he didn’t trust his team when it mattered most. He didn’t believe that the other team deserved a chance to see if a miracle would happen. He played it safe knowing that anything could happen in that last hail mary. But isn’t that why you play the game of football? Isn’t that why you play the Super Bowl knowing that anything can happen in one game but believing that your players can come through with everything on the line and find a way to win?

After the Ravens had received the Lombardi Trophy, John Harbaugh was asked what he said to his brother, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when he met with him on the field after the game was through. He said that he told his brother that he loved him, and his brother responded “congratulations.” Anyone watching when the brothers actually met knows exactly what Jim said the John, in less flowery terms, “what the heck was that?” Jim had every right to be upset. John Harbaugh managed the Ravens to a five-point lead over the 49ers with 11 seconds to go. But he denied Jim those last 11 seconds, that last play which is the reason why everyone watches the Super Bowl every single year. In making that safety happen, John Harbaugh guaranteed the Ravens’ victory. However, he denied his team, denied the San Francisco 49ers, and denied every single person watching that game the chance to know for sure how the game was really going to end and the chance to see a moment- whether the face of the receiver watching the ball fall to the turf like almost certainly going to happen or the face of the defender watching helplessly as the receiver lands in bounds with the ball in his grasp as was unlikely to occur but not impossible- where the emotion of the players undermines everything else and the fact that the Super Bowl isn’t just another football game but a continuation of a tradition that has captivated the American people for 47 years now becomes more apparent than anything. Congratulations, John, on your Super Bowl victory. But those 11 seconds, that final play, is something you took away from everyone in that stadium and everyone watching on TV that they will never get back.

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Tags: Baltimore Ravens Jim Harbaugh John Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers

  • Robbie_Knopf

    This is a Tampa Bay Rays site with no connection to NFL football, but I could not stand to let this idea go unarticulated. Maybe it was the right football move, but the Super Bowl is more than just a game, and what Harbaugh did was inexcusable and took an excellent football game and drilled a hole right in its center.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.varisco.7 Nick Varisco

    That is ridiculousness, if one team took a knee to win the game, would you be hounding him. This safety is just like taking a knee to win the game. This was the SUPER BOWL, do whatever you can to win. This was good strategy and a smart move by john and this is shown in a super bowl win. Don’t bash him for doing anything he can to win the biggest game of his life.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      A knee is a different case because you have the ball in your possession and it’s not fourth down. And exactly because it’s the Super Bowl I think that he made the wrong move. You just win or lose the Super Bowl- it’s something you remember for the rest of your life and do you really want to remember how you took the easy way out and didn’t trust your defense to stop one hail mary? I’m taking a radical stance and I’ll admit that, but while Harbaugh “did what he could to win,” he defied the spirit of the Super Bowl and made an amazing game leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

  • OTown RaysFan

    i thought maybe you had written this right after the game, and that your mind was fogged because of a long day or from imbibing too much. but, it looks like you are sticking to your guns on your fallacious reasoning. the coach’s ONLY job is to win football games for his team and its city and fans. in this case, he did so by ensuring that the other team’s likelihood of scoring was significantly diminished from doing something stupid when he had a choice of ANY other strategy. had he chosen to follow your course of illogic, and endede up losiung, then he would have been lambasted forever for his stupidity – and rightfully so. try thinking about this in terms that you might have a better handle on: give me an example in baseball that would EVER warrant a manager making a choice that would diminish his team’s chances of winning, and maybe i will think that there’s a chance you could be right. otherwise, maybe you SHOULD stick to baseball matters.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      I did write this article right after the game (12:21 AM to be exact), and then I commented after I went to sleep and woke up on Monday, but now I’d probably recant (although I’m not about to delete what I wrote). Harbaugh did what it took to win. It was ugly, it was annoying, but he did what it took to win and I can’t argue with that.