By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
12:28 PM EDT, September 6, 2013
In his post-game press conference after Thursday night's 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked why he didn't challenge a pass reception by Wes Welker early in the third quarter.
Replays showed that Welker clearly dropped the pass on a third and 9 situation. The Broncos would have been forced to punt. Instead the Broncos continued their drive with a big gainer on the very next play.
"Kevin just told me about that in the hall," Harbaugh said at the podium, presumably referring to Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president for community and public relations.
"That's the first we've heard of that," he continued. "You know, that's something we've got to see. It would be nice if NBC would show that, and then we'd have a chance to look at in time. We never saw that."
But NBC did show it clear as a bell before the next snap, with play-by-play announcer Al Michaels pointing out right after the catch that Ravens cornerback Corey Graham was gesturing for Harbaugh to challenge the play.
And both Michaels and analyst Cris Collinsworth said definitely that the ball was dropped as the catch was replayed 13 seconds before the Broncos snapped the ball on the next play.
Understand this is all happening in a no-huddle offense, so it's bang-bang. But here is what the DVR shows:
With 14:06 left in the third quarter, Welker pulls in a pass from Peyton Manning and falls to ground with his body wrapped around the ball.
At 14:00, Michaels says, "Graham is saying it hit the ground. He's looking over at Harbaugh. He's trying to get Harbaugh to challenge."
At 13:58, the pass and so-called catch are replayed by NBC with a definitive look at the ball clearly hitting the ground.
As the image plays on the screen, Collinsworth says, "It sure did."
Michaels agrees that the ball definitely hit the ground.
At 13:50, Michaels says, "Harbaugh can challenge."
As Manning rushes the team up to the line, Collinsworth is saying, "Snap the ball."
Collinsworth says "Oh, wow," when the ball is snapped at 13:45, and the Broncos tear off a big play.
Maybe there was a problem in communication between the sideline and the Ravens coaches in the booth, and Harbaugh was never informed. Maybe there was a problem with the feed to the Ravens' booth. Maybe Harbaugh never saw Graham gesturing on the field.
But it is wrong to point the finger at NBC. The broadcast crew did its job, and did it well. Go back and look at the replay yourself.
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