Harbaugh Bowl: Giving Up a Safety At End Was John Harbaugh at His Craftiest

By Phil Clark


Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

In a lot of cases, life is about give and take, more commonly known as “compromise.” The notion is that you can get something you are perusing if you also give up something, known as “a concession,” along the way. In the case of Super Bowl XXLVII, this helped the Baltimore Ravens to a 34-31 win in a game that literally came down to the final play.

With the game at 34-29 Ravens with eleven seconds to go and the San Francisco 49ers set to get one more possession (more like a play or two) with the football, Ravens coach John Harbaugh showed his willingness to get creative by opting to have his punter, Sam Koch, not kick the ball, but instead run around in the end-zone taking up time before eventually surrendering the safety. The play worked to perfection as the 49ers got the safety, seven seconds ran off the clock, and the Ravens had to kick the ball to the 49ers with only enough time for that play. So, instead of giving the 49ers a chance to go for the Hail Mary or anything else, the Ravens gave up two points and prevented the 49ers from even getting a shot at the play.

While not as gutsy as Sean Payton calling for the New Orleans Saints to go for an onside kick to begin the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, this call from Harbaugh should rank among the best in the history of the Super Bowl. It was at the very end of the game in a close game that the Ravens had been slowly giving up a massive lead in. Considering that Harbaugh opted for a fake field-goal in the first half that missed gaining the first down by a yard, it likely wasn’t the first thought in anybody’s mind that he would do something ingenious here. Especially considering the circumstances.

But that’s exactly what he did: he went with something creative as a way to secure a Super Bowl victory. And though there was still one play (the Ravens’ free kick after the safety) still remaining, the fact that this safety gave Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense no chance of getting back onto the field gave the Ravens basically a 99 percent chance of winning. Nothing against Ted Ginn Jr., the man who returned the Ravens’ free kick on the final play of the game, but it is incredibly rare in professional football that a game ends on a punt return touchdown. And it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen here.

Though if there was one game where something incredibly rare like that were to happen, it would have been fitting for this game.

Phil Clark is a writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Or check out his blog.

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