The scoreboard was wrong. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Apparently everyone is reporting that the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium malfunctioned during the end of the Patriots vs Ravens AFC Championship Game. According to a report by DeadSpin, the scoreboard was displaying the incorrect down. It appears as if kicker Billy Cundiff was in his mental preparation stages for his field goal attempt and his preparation involves a certain action for each down.
Prior to the malfunction, Patriots ATH Julian Edelman forced a fumble on an Anquan Boldin reception. The ball went out of bounds and, according to the rules, the ball was placed at the location of Boldin's fumble. Here's the official ruling:
A fumble that goes forward and out of bounds will return to the fumbling team at the spot of the fumble unless the ball goes out of bounds in the opponent’s end zone. In this case, it is a touchback.
Since the ball clearly did not go out of bounds, the ball should have been placed at the spot of the fumble: the 14 yard line. The Ravens needed to reach the 13 yard line in order to reach a new set of downs.
However, the scoreboard operators posted the incorrect down and the scoreboard read 1st and 10. Here's a screenshot from the All-22 Film, where coaches must show the scoreboard prior to showing the play:
As you can see, it clearly says 1st and 10. The Patriots operators messed up. Was this all a ploy by the Patriots organization to receive an unfair advantage? I don't think so. The markers on the field had the correct downs. While Cundiff used the scoreboard as reference for the down, the Patriots are either master psychologists or they just plain screwed up. I'm leaning towards "screwed up."
Oh, and they fixed the mistake. I don't have access to the All-22s from the 3rd down play, but they fixed the mistake by the 4th down:
So Cundiff was unintentionally mislead, in my opinion. The Ravens should have used their timeout if they were truly confused.
While I think this is a mess out of nothing, this is the proof that there was an actual issue with the scoreboard at Gillette. Hopefully an explanation can come from the Razor to explain the mistake.