Admittedly, things did not look good. The Ravens’ defense appeared absolutely gassed. San Francisco’s offense looked great. My prospects looked dim as the 49ers marched with relative ease inside the red zone.
Once there, however, they were stymied. One of the NFL’s all-time great defensive units bowed its back and kept San Francisco out of the end zone for a series of and-goal plays. With the last, I exhaled a small sigh of relief, while still acknowledging to friends that the potential of “something stupid” happening in the final two minutes could still spoil my evening.
At the time, I was thinking more in terms of a late-game fumble. So with each successful center-to-quarterback-to-running back exchange of the pigskin, I was able to exhale slightly more easily. As fourth down arrived and 12 seconds remained on the clock, I felt pretty good.
And then the announcer had to go and say it.
“You know, they might be talking about just taking a safety here,” some talking head on the tube opined during a time out with 12 seconds remaining.
My mind instantly started processing the odds and variables. Surely, nobody in their right mind would voluntarily surrender two points and move the game to a position where one field goal suddenly sends things to overtime, would they? Especially when there’s a chance that said kick could occur on an untimed down with no defense present on the field to even rush and disrupt the kicker, right?
On the game’s biggest stage, nobody pulling down a seven-figure salary would turn their fate over to special teams play, easily the most fickle of all elements of football.
Twelve seconds. You snap the ball and realize the punter takes slightly more than one second to catch and then kick the ball — 10.5 seconds.
You instruct your punter to kick the ball out of bounds so there’s no chance of a return. The average hang time on an NFL punt is more than four seconds. Toss in the average lag in human reaction time for stopping the clock, we’re looking at six seconds at most and a Hail Mary play from around midfield. Any coach would willingly take those odds now that replacement refs have been banished from the game, right? Any coach!
Any coach except Baltimore Ravens head coach (and Super Bowl champion) John Harbaugh. As the Ravens punter ran sacrificially along the back of the end zone I began to cry. Hypothetical tears, of course.
The record will show the final points of Super Bowl XLVII were scored with four seconds remaining. Those four seconds will likely echo for all eternity for me.
And that’s probably how much time will have to pass before I find myself cheering for the Ravens again. Trust me, the Phillies made the mistake of pitching to Joe Carter and allowing him to crush my World Series squares windfall some 400-plus feet into outfield stands oblivion and I still haven’t forgiven them despite multiple managerial changes and a 100 percent roster rollover.
If it’s any consolation — and it isn’t, believe me — misery loves company, and from various football chat boards, I can safely say that I have plenty of company around the nation. Plenty of kindred souls sharing my pain.
Hypothetically, of course.