Time was running down as the Ravens trailed the Bills 23-20. The Ravens knew that in order to have any chance to preserve clock with no timeouts remaining they would have to make sure that Buffalo Quarterback E.J. Manuel take a knee. After the first two kneel-downs it became clear that E.J. would not take a knee until the last possible second. Two times Ravens Linebacker Courtney Upshaw had to force the issue. On third down, Manuel once again hovered with his knee above the ground in order to run off more clock before an eventual kneel down. His knee never touched the ground so Raven veteran LB Terrell Suggs seized the opportunity off the outside corner to either stop the clock or jar the ball loose.
Upon making the tackle, Manuel’s helmet came off and rolled away. Seeing this the referees decided to throw a flag for Unnecessary Roughness on the play, resulting in an automatic first down and ending any hopes the Ravens had to get the ball back.
After the game Terrell Suggs told reporters that Referee Jerome Boger explained to him on the field, as he was trying to plead his case of a clean hit, that “he has to air on the side of safety. He said that his helmet came off. Any time a quarterback’s helmet comes off, they’ve kind of got to look at it.”
Coach John Harbaugh spoke up for his player after the game, supported the play and rebuked the refs for the call. He told reporters that the league stresses to them that quarterbacks must get their knee down and not try to run more time off the clock. He said it was Manuel’s responsibility to take the knee and end the play. The fact of the matter was that Manuel’s knee was not down. Suggs made a play based on that fact.
If the kneel-down was immanent then who is wrong in this case?
Suggs and Harbaugh didn’t apologize for the play. Harbaugh actually praised his player for his attempt and said he was just sad that Suggs couldn’t cause a turnover. Should Suggs have been kinder about the tackle? Should he have allowed Manuel to just take the knee and concede the win?
E.J. Manuel was just trying to run down the clock to secure a win. Nothing wrong with that. If that is the case, shouldn’t he have attempted to get a first down to ensure the clock run out before taking the kneel-downs? Should he have tightened his chin strap if he was going to flirt with the chance of being hit and not taking a knee immediately?