Joe Flacco had a pretty interesting plan for the final play of the Super Bowl.
Problem is, had he needed to carry out his plan it might have turned into the most infamous play in Super Bowl history, for all the wrong reasons.
The Baltimore Ravens were about to make a free kick with four seconds left. The Ravens had just taken an intentional safety — complete with some egregious holding — that made the score 34-31. Baltimore’s task was simple: Kick the ball to Ted Ginn Jr., tackle him and win the Super Bowl.
The Ravens quarterback turned to tight end Dennis Pitta on the sidelines and said: “If he (Ginn) starts to break it, go tackle him.”
“Really?” Pitta said, sounding more curious than incredulous.
“I don’t know,” Flacco said. “I mean. What else . . . what can they . . . I don’t know . . . they might be able to give him a touchdown on that. I don’t know.”
Flacco’s idea to come off the bench and stop a would-be touchdown would have broken every rule of sportsmanship in the books, but in his mind it would have ensured the Ravens win the Super Bowl. It’s not clear if he was joking, but he didn’t smile or laugh as he spoke, and he did speak to others about leaving the sidelines to stop a potential touchdown.
“Hey,” he said to his offensive linemen after he walked away from Pitta, “if he breaks it, if he busts it for some reason, tackle him. Go tackle him. I don’t know what the rule is on that but . . .”
“Why can’t you?” guard Marshal Yanda said.
“I will; I’m going to,” Flacco said.
The mere thought of Flacco or any Baltimore player coming off the bench to tackle a punt returner is mind-boggling. Clearly Flacco thought the worst that could happen would have been a 15-yard penalty.
Which he’d have taken to ensure Baltimore won.
What if it had happened? Could Flacco, or any player on any team, actually ensure a win by stopping a touchdown coming off the bench?
Michael Signora, NFL vice president of communication, referred to Rule 12, Section 3, Article 3 on page 72 of the Rule Book.
It covers a “palpably unfair act.”
And it reads: “A player or substitute shall not interfere with play by any act which is palpably unfair. Penalty: For a palpably unfair act: Offender may be disqualified. The Referee, after consulting his crew, enforces any such distance penalty as they consider equitable and irrespective of any other specified code penalty. The Referee may award a score.”
So had Flacco — or any Raven — tried what Flacco discussed, he would have lived in notoriety forever. Because he would have had to deal with the embarrassment of coming off the bench to make a tackle, and of giving the 49ers their game-winning touchdown.
That the league has this rule in the books shows it has to be ready for anything.
Super Bowls produce all kind of crazy plays.
Had this one played out the way Flacco discussed, it might have been the craziest ever.