NEW ORLEANS – Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch became Super Bowl XLVII's unlikeliest hero on Sunday with a play that cost his team two points but essentially ensured it would head home as champions.
With 12 seconds on the clock, the Ravens leading by five and facing fourth down at their own 7-yard line, head coach John Harbaugh decided to deliberately concede a safety and further reduce the amount of time available for the San Francisco 49ers. Subsequently, it was left to Koch to use his feet in a way he is not accustomed.
Instead of launching the ball as far as possible downfield, the 30-year-old skipped and danced and ran around the back of the end zone before eventually being shoved out of bounds.
"It is not what you expect but I was ready for it," Koch said following the Ravens' 34-31 victory in Super Bowl XLVII. "That is part of what our team is all about, be prepared and be ready for anything. I just wanted to use up some clock and make it as difficult as possible for them. It'll be something to talk about for a while, it is pretty neat."
Koch caught the ball, edged a little to his right, then sidestepped a little more, before hiding in the corner for a few more seconds. His move seemed to catch the 49ers off guard, and by the time Chris Culliver eventually reached him Koch had chewed up eight seconds, leaving just 0:04 on the clock. From the resulting safety, he boomed a 61-yard free kick from the 20-yard line that resulted in Ted Ginn Jr. being tackled, thereby ending the game.
"He did it just right," said Ravens place kicker Justin Tucker. "Every second at that stage was like gold for us. We didn't want them to have any time to come back down and maybe run it in somehow."
Koch is one of the best punters in the NFL but his most significant contributions Sunday were not with his boot. His three punts averaged 47 yards but two resulted in touchbacks that failed to pin the 49ers deeper into their own territory.
When Ginn threatened to return a weak punt for a touchdown in the third quarter, it was Koch who scooted across and forced him out of bounds. However, the Niners would score a touchdown two plays later.
Ultimately though, it will be Koch's end-zone theatrics with time ebbing away that will go down as Koch's defining moment.
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Niners coach Jim Harbaugh was angered that the officials failed to call holding on the safety play and his response was not especially dignified.
"I still haven't gotten an explanation when they took the safety – the Ravens can't tackle us and hold us," Harbaugh said. "It's good scheme on their part to hold as many people as they can, but they teach people to basically tackle when you're taking a safety. But not one holding penalty was called. It was very curious, and I never got an explanation on that stuff."
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