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Did Mike Tomlin prevent Jacoby Jones from a kick-return touchdown?

[si-nfl-player id="6c4459c19ecd4a6bb7ec76753806c3aa"]

The Patriots-Jets finale to the NFL's 2012 Thanksgiving Day gave us the infamous "butt fumble" by Mark Sanchez. This season's third and final holiday contest, between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, provided another extremely bizarre moment.

After the Steelers put their first touchdown of the game up in the third quarter, Baltimore's Jacoby Jones broke free on the ensuing kickoff and appeared headed for a score. At the last moment, though, Cortez Allen caught Jones from behind and hauled him down at the 27-yard line, saving a touchdown; the Ravens eventually kicked a field goal.

But did Allen have a little illegal help?

Despite having no defenders in front of him as he tiptoed the sideline, Jones turned slightly back in toward the middle of the field, allowing Allen to haul him down. And it appeared that Jones did so to avoid Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, who was standing -- for some reason -- at the very edge of the sideline, staring up at the end zone video board.

Tomlin glanced back over his shoulder as Jones approached, then hopped to his left away from the Baltimore kick returner. Here's a shot of Jones headed up the sideline, with the spotlight on Tomlin courtesy of NBC's broadcast:

Tomlin 2

And another look, showing Jones and Tomlin narrowly avoiding a collision:

Tomlin Jones

"I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron to provide a better perspective," Tomlin said after Pittsburgh's 22-20 loss, "and I obviously lost my placement."

Even if it was deemed that Tomlin was near (or in) the field of play by accident, he could have been flagged for sideline interference for blocking the official's path. The Jets were penalized for just such an infraction last week.

The officials even could have awarded Jones a touchdown, had they ruled that Tomlin had impeded Jones' path to the end zone. Without the two making contact, that call would have been difficult to make.

Tomlin smiled as the replay of his odd move was shown inside Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, to the disdain of the Ravens faithful. For his part, Jones appeared to point out the possible interference to the officials after he was tackled by Allen on the play.

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