Updated with NFL’s plans to review the play
Late in a tight game the Pittsburgh Steelers desperately needed to win, Coach Mike Tomlin was standing where he wasn’t supposed to be and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones nearly ran him down on a kickoff return.
Was it as innocent as that sounds, or was something more sinister at play? Was Tomlin, who was so close that he had a toe on the field of play and probably should be credited with an assist on the tackle, intentionally trying to impede Jones — i.e., cheating — or was it an accident? Tomlin said it was the latter, but his Cheshire cat grin captured by cameras just after the play complicated matters.
He was a little more deadpan after the game. “I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron. It provides better perspective for me,” Tomlin said afterward at M&T Bank Stadium. “Obviously, I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play. I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong. I accept responsibility for it.”
Jones was run down on the return, which came with the Ravens up 13-7 in the third quarter, and was prevented from scoring, but the Ravens hung on for a 22-20 victory and Tomlin was not flagged on the play. Afterward, the Ravens were joking about it — to a point. After all, they won. Quarterback Joe Flacco pointed out that he was criticized for joking about running onto the field to tackle Ted Ginn Jr. on the last play of the Super Bowl.
“I kinda took flak for that. That’s exactly what he [Tomlin] just did,” Flacco said with a smile. “He was looking at the big screen. He knew where he was. He knew where Jacoby was. He pulled my move.”
Jones was pulled down from behind after a 73-yard gain on the return.
“As soon as I hit the hole and I was running down the sideline, I promise you I’m looking at him the whole time like … ‘Is he going to move?’ ” Jones said. “I just weaved out of the way. It broke my stride a little bit, but I still shouldn’t have gotten caught. It is what it is. [The Steelers player] made the tackle. If I was him, I’d do the same thing.”
Jones was asked if he’d heard about Brooklyn Nets Coach Jason Kidd being fined $50,000 for spilling a soda when he was out of timeouts late in a game Wednesday night, and he was off and running again.
“Coaches are smart nowadays,” Jones said. “You gotta do what you gotta do. It’s hard to get a win out here on these streets.”
Jones was laughing as he said that last bit, but there certainly should have been a flag.
Tomlin knew he would hear about it — maybe he was wincing and not smiling — from the NFL, which has said it will review the play. (As well as the role played by game officials.) Three years ago, the New York Jets were fined $100,000 after strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Nolan Carroll of the Miami Dolphins on a return. Earlier this season, Washington Redskins special teams coach Keith Burns was flagged for making inadvertent contact with a ref during a punt-return touchdown.
And, yes, it’s already an Internet thing.
H/T SB Nation, CJZero for the GIFs