New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick weighed in on Thursday night’s controversial play in which Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin came close to making contact with Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones during Baltimore’s 22-20 victory.
During a 73-yard kick return by Jones in the third quarter, replays showed Tomlin lingering in the white strip along the sideline, scooting away at the last second as Jones approached but perhaps causing Jones to veer off his straight line.
Belichick defended Tomlin, saying in a statement released by the Patriots on Friday that he was once “blown up” because he was not paying attention to where he was on the sideline when a player ran into him.
“Obviously we have to give the officials and the players room to play,” Belichick said. “Sometimes that just happens where you get guys caught up a little bit on the sideline. But yeah, I saw the play last night. I was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah.’ That could easily happen to any of us. It’s a good lesson, I have to be careful.”
Tomlin said after the game he was not trying to interfere with Jones.
“I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron,” he explained. “It provides better perspective for me. I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.”
Tomlin said he was aware of the rule that players and coaches have to stand behind the white line that separates the sidelines from the playing field.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he said. “I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong, I accept responsibility for it.”
However, some Ravens did not buy Tomlin’s explanation.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco essentially accused Tomlin of cheating.
“That’s exactly what he just did,” Flacco said. “He was looking at the big screen the whole entire time, he knew where he was, he knew where Jacoby was. He pulled my move.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh joked about it when asked about the play.
“I was wondering, did they credit him with the tackle on that?” he said. “I really don’t know what to say about it other than stuff like that happens.”
Tomlin was not assessed a penalty on the play.