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By Steve Kallas
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Here are some final thoughts on Super Bowl XLVII and next year’s super matchup at the Meadowlands.
I) The 49ers hurt themselves tremendously early in the game. Their first play, a 20-yard completion to Vernon Davis, was called back for a high school penalty — illegal formation. After a three-and-out, MVP Joe Flacco moved the Ravens down the field, but with a 3rd-and-9 from the 49ers’ 18, Flacco threw an incomplete pass. The field-goal attempt never happened as Ahmad Brooks was offside on the play, allowing Flacco to hit Anquan Boldin in the end zone for an 18-yard TD and a 7-0 lead. It was a huge turn of events early.
II) The 49ers were weak in the red zone for almost the entire game. They moved the ball virtually at will, posting 468 yards of total offense from the line of scrimmage — the highest ever for a losing SB team. But with a 1st-and-goal at the Ravens’ 8, the drive sputtered and David Akers kicked a 36-yard FG.
III) In the second quarter, the 49ers again moved the ball at will from their own 20 to the Ravens’ 25. And then LaMichael James fumbled, which was another huge turnover. Flacco led the Ravens on a 75-yard TD drive and Baltimore was up, 14-3.
IV) The Raven’ fake field goal which, at first blush, might have looked like a mistake — it’s hard to get nine yards on that play — was really a brilliant play with little downside. If they make it, it’s devastating for the 49ers. If they don’t make it, they’ve got the 49ers buried on, in this case, their own 6-yard line. It turned out great for the Ravens, as Cary Williams almost picked off a hesitant Colin Kaepernick pass for a TD and, after Baltimore got the ball on their own 44, Flacco completed a 56-yard TD catch to Jacoby Jones.
V) The 49ers continued to move the ball at will, moving 71 yards in 1:24. But they had to settle (again) for an Akers FG. Their inability in the red zone really was the key to the game.
VI) Jones’s 108-yard second-half kickoff return was partly because of a poor Akers kickoff. If you are going to kick a line drive (obviously not something intended by Akers), then you’d better kick it beyond the end zone.
VII) While the power outage definitely changed the momentum of the game — no matter what you hear — the 49ers did have to punt once the lights came back on. But the Ravens offense wasn’t on the field for 84 minutes of real time and could only manage two (albeit big) field goals the rest of the game.
VIII) While the 49ers got back in the game with two quick TDs, the following question was never raised: After Akers missed that 39-yard FG on 4th-and-7 but was run into, did (or why didn’t?) Jim Harbaugh consider going for it on 4th-and-2? They were on a roll, had just scored two quick TDs, were down 28-20 and certainly could have made two yards. This question was never discussed and, in this writer’s opinion, it came back to bite the 49ers.
IX) After Flacco again drove the Ravens down the field, up 28-23, he had a 1st-and-goal at the 49ers’ 5-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, Flacco was definitely hit out of bounds, a clear penalty that was not called. It should have been a first down, and any “expert” who said it was a good “no-call” has missed the way the game has changed in the last few years. It wasn’t even about a QB getting hit out of bounds. Nowadays, anybody who is hit out of bounds gets that call. The refs missed a big one here.
X) They also missed, after Kaepernick ran it in to make it 31-29, an offside penalty on Ed Reed on the two-point conversion. As Phil Simms noted, he may have lined up offside, but definitely ran across the line of scrimmage before the snap of the ball. It was an incomplete pass and the Ravens kept the lead.
XI) In the final drive of the game, down 34-29, the 49ers obviously had a great chance to score and win the Super Bowl. With 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line, the 49ers ran it for two and then threw three passes. It certainly looked like Michael Crabtree was hit early on 2nd-and-goal — which was ever discussed — but the controversy came on 4th-and-goal, before which the 49ers should have used their final time out to set up a play. It was clearly a penalty of some kind on Jimmy Smith. Simms at first said that it was a good “no-call.” Upon further review, however, once Simms saw that Smith had grabbed Crabtree with BOTH hands, even Simms said, “The more I see, the more confused I get.” Amen to that. But the reality is that you are rarely going to get a Super Bowl-deciding flag in that situation.
XII) Finally, with respect to the game, the question for the Ravens when leading 34-29 very late wasn’t, ‘Should we take a safety?’ The question was, ‘Why shouldn’t we take a safety?’ Sam Koch did a great job running eight seconds off the clock, not allowing the 49ers to get a play off from scrimmage. Game over.
XIII) NEXT YEAR’S SUPER BOWL? Well, that may turn out to be a relatively easy prediction. The 49ers are the class of the NFC. With the re-emergence of Davis as a star, they will be better next year. In the AFC, if the Ravens don’t re-sign Reed, he will probably wind up with the Patriots. (Reed and Bill Belichick have a mutual admiration.) And that one addition will put the Patriots over the top for next season.
What are your final takeaways from Super Bowl XLVII? Let us know in the comments section below…