Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard leveled New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley during the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s AFC Championship game, causing Ridley to fumble and leaving him motionless on the ground. That Ridley was hurt was apparent immediately when he ended up in the “fencing position” — arms and toes up to the sky:
The fumble came at a big moment. Ridley and the Patriots were down eight points with about 13 minutes to go, but the fumble gave the ball back to the Ravens, who promptly scored another touchdown and effectively sealed their trip to the Super Bowl. After the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called the hit “football at its finest“:
“That was the turning point of the game,” John Harbaugh said. “That was the turning point of the football game there on the 40-yard-line. It was just a tremendous hit. It was football at its finest. It was Bernard Pollard making a great physical tackle — just as good a tackle as you’re ever going to see in football right there. That just probably turned the game around right there.”
There’s no disputing the play was a turning point, and there was absolutely nothing illegal about it either. But that coaches view plays like that as football at its finest, and that players view injuries the way they say they do in Tom Junod’s excellent new Esquire piece, serves as a reminder that there is a significant gap between the concerns of people inside the game and those outside it about making it safer. If “football at its finest” involves leaving a guy motionless on the turf, I suppose I don’t have much interest in the finest points of the game.