Over the next week you'll read plenty about how the Baltimore Ravens played a nearly flawless game against New England in the AFC wild card playoff. All of the plaudits will be deserved, of course. Going to Foxborough and pummeling the AFC East champs 33-14 was as impressive as it was surprising.
But we're going to be a little greedy. Because if not for a curious decision by coach John Harbaugh to leave a play unchallenged at the start of the second quarter, the Ravens would have won by more and the game never would have been somewhat in doubt in the fourth quarter when the Pats were down by a manageable 13 points.
At the start of the second quarter, Baltimore was back to receive a punt from the Pats. The Ravens led 24-0 (tied for the best first quarter in postseason history) and had forced three New England turnovers. The game felt as over as one can be in 15 minutes. And then this happened:
The official ruled that New England's Kyle Arrington(notes) recovered the ball before going out of bounds. Yet the replay shows Arrington didn't have possession before the ball squirted away. It would have taken the ref 30 seconds to overturn the call and award the Ravens the ball.
But no challenge ever came from John Harbaugh. For whatever reason (nobody in the booth caught it, wanted to save the challenges, sympathy for noted sportsman Bill Belichick), he failed to throw the red flag. The Pats wound up scoring a touchdown after the turnover and suddenly a comeback seemed feasible. New England had life. For a few more hours, anyway.