Four Plays, Not A Controversial Call, Decide Super Bowl XLVII

By Ben Grimaldi
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Super Bowl XLVII was not decided by a fade pass on fourth and goal, or the referee’s decision not to throw a flag on the play. And it certainly had nothing to do with a power outage that lasted for about a half an hour in the third quarter.

No, the Harbaugh Bowl, Bro Bowl or Super Bowl, whatever you want to call it, was decided by a brutal series of play calls by the San Francisco 49ers when they had first and goal to go at the Baltimore Ravens 7-yard line.

On first and goal the 49ers ran inside with a hand-off to LaMichael James, which gained two yards. Why would the 49ers run an inside running play with a smaller running back, especially near the goal line? Running the ball is a fine play call and I understand that Frank Gore just had a nice gain for 33-yards and was not available on that play, so why not throw a pass on first down? Perhaps they could’ve run the read option with a smaller running back? Running inside with a runner who doesn’t have the power of Gore seemed like a bad choice.

The 49ers called a roll out on second and goal, which fell incomplete. It was the best play call of the series because it got Colin Kaepernick on the move and gave him an option to run if no receiver was open. The pass also was thrown to the goal line so even if it was complete, it gave the Niners an option to run or pass on the last two downs at the one-yard line. Still, there is always the question as to why the Niners chose to throw short of the end zone with only three plays left to win the game?

On third down, the 49ers ran their worst play of the game. They only needed five yards to score the possible game winning touchdown and they ran a pass play two-yards short of the end zone! The pass should have been caught by Michael Crabtree but even if he had caught it he would have been well short of the goal line. Why throw a pass that had no real intention of scoring a touchdown and have the Super Bowl come down to one final play? Taking two shots at the end zone is much better than one, especially with the game on the line.

Finally, there was the questionable call on fourth down, and I’m not talking about the official’s decision on not to throw a penalty flag. I’ve always hated the decision to throw a fade pass near the goal line, especially when the game is on the line. It doesn’t have a high completion percentage to begin with and it requires two players to make a play. One player has to throw the ball and the other has to get open; it’s a play that requires perfection and relying on perfection to win the Super Bowl is a lot to ask.

Maybe there was pass interference or holding on the play but after watching the first 58 minutes of the Super Bowl where almost no penalties were called on plays down the field, the 49ers cannot be shocked nothing was called.

In the end, it wasn’t the no call that cost San Francisco a Super Bowl; it was the terrible play calling in the three plays before it that might have cost them a championship. I cannot fathom running four plays near the goal line without giving your best player an opportunity to make a play. Colin Kaepernick should have been a primary option on at least one of the 49ers’ final plays and not allowing him to make that play was a big mistake.

The Ravens also deserve credit for a big goal line stand but the 49ers didn’t help their own cause. The no-call didn’t decide the Super Bowl for the 49ers, their play calling on fourth and goal did.

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