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Shutdown Corner

Joe Flacco told teammates to tackle Ted Ginn from the sideline during Super Bowl free kick return

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

It's a good thing that Joe Flacco has made himself into an "elite" (and soon to be very highly-paid) quarterback, because the Baltimore Ravens signal-caller and Super Bowl MVP needs a lot of work as a special teams coach.

With four seconds left in Super Bowl XLVII, San Francisco 49ers return man Ted Ginn, Jr. stood ready to accept a free kick from punter Sam Koch. It was one play after Koch took an intentional safety to give Baltimore a better chance of pinning the 49ers back on their side of the field. It also made the score 34-31, and the Ravens were very much aware of Ginn's return skills.

[Michael Silver: Young stars found spotlight during NFL season]

As a matter of fact, Flacco was telling his teammates on the sideline to go onto the field and tackle Ginn if the speedster got beyond the Ravens' return coverage team. Ginn returned the ball 31 yards from the San Francisco 19-yard line to midfield, saving referee Jerome Boger (who did not, under any circumstances, have a great Super Bowl himself) from having to deal with what would have been the weirdest play in Super Bowl history.

NFL Films' "Sound FX" program caught the drama for posterity.

"Are we gonna win this?" Flacco asked Ravens head coach John Harbaugh from the sideline.

"Yeah -- the game's over if we cover this kick," Harbaugh responded.

"We don't make it easy, do we?" Flacco posited.

"No, we don't," Harbaugh said.

"If he starts to break it, go tackle him," Flacco then said to Pitta.


"I don't know ... I mean ... what else can they ... they might be able to give them a touchdown on that? I don't know," Flacco told Pitta.

Flacco, flush with enthusiasm over his new tackling tactic, then went around and tried to get other teammates on his side.

"Hey! If he breaks this ... if he busts it for some reason? Tackle him! Go tackle him," Flacco said to guard Marshal Yanda and center Matt Birk. "I don't know what the rule is on that, but..."

"Why don't you?" Yanda asked.

"I'm going to!"

Well, he didn't have to, and it's a good thing. Under the rules, Boger could have awarded the 49ers a touchdown anyway. Per Rule 12, Section 3, Article 3 of the NFL Rules Manual:

"Palpably Unfair Act. A player or substitute shall not interfere with play by any act which is palpably unfair. Penalty: For a palpably unfair act: Offender may be disqualified. The Referee, after consulting his crew, enforces any such distance penalty as they consider equitable and irrespective of any other specified code penalty. The Referee may award a score."

So, imagine that. After a 34-minute blackout in the Superdome, and a series of very questionable calls on both sides, Boger -- a mediocre official at best -- would have been left to decide who won the Super Bowl based on his own discretion.

Also: 49ers’ Delanie Walker’s aunt and uncle killed after Super Bowl]

In football, there is a history of such nefarious tactics. In 2010, New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi came from the sideline and tripped Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll during a punt return by Jets receiver Santonio Holmes. The Jets suspended Alosi for the rest of the season, fined him $25,000, and eventually sent him on his merry way.

And in the 1954 Cotton Bowl, Alabama's Tommy Lewis came off the sideline to tackle Rice running back Dicky Maegle. Lewis wasn't punished in white the same way -- he and Maegle were invited to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Flacco, for his part, already had an appearance on David Letterman's show in the old Ed Sullivan Theater. And he almost gave Dave a lot more to talk about.

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