|After gaining 67 yards on four, fourth-quarter carries, Frank Gore didn't touch the ball on the final four plays. (US Presswire)|
NEW ORLEANS -- After almost nothing went wrong for the San Francisco 49ers' offense in the second half Sunday, just about everything did on the their final three plays. Their inability to finish after having second-and-goal at the Baltimore Ravens' 5-yard line was the difference between a 34-31 loss and what would have been, by far, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
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From hot running back Frank Gore not touching the ball to quarterback Colin Kaepernick not running at all to a timeout that cost the 49ers a realistic chance at one more possession, coach Jim Harbaugh faced a firing line of tough questions about the botched ending.
The problems started after LaMichael James gained two yards to the Ravens' 5, after Gore's 33-yard, stiff-arm special to the Baltimore 7 gave the 49ers a golden opportunity to take the lead for the first time.
With two minutes left, Kaepernick rolled to his right on a designed play and could not connect with wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who was blanketed.
Before the next snap, Harbaugh called his second timeout as the play clock hit zero even though the game clock was stopped for the previous incomplete pass. That decision eliminated any chance for San Francisco to get the ball back if it didn't score.
“The clock was running down,” Harbaugh said. “I didn't think we were going to get (the play) off.”
After the timeout, Kaepernick tried to complete a short pass to Crabtree that would have gained about two yards. He couldn't hold on as he was popped.
On fourth down, Kaepernick saw a blitz coming and tossed a fade for Crabtree that was well out of his reach in the back of the end zone.
Why no Gore? Why no Kaepernick read option?
“We called plays we thought would get a touchdown,” Harbaugh said. “The second one was a run-pass option for (Kaepernick).”
Although Harbaugh was more interested in criticizing the officials for not bailing out the 49ers with an interference call, his players did not bring up the lack of flags.
“It was very frustrating not to put it in there,” offensive tackle Joe Staley said. “We were very relaxed, very confident that we were going to get it in. All the work we did in the offseason, the whole entire season came down to five yards and (we) weren't able to get it done.”
The last play was not Harbaugh's call.
“That wasn't the original option,” Kaepernick said. “It's something I audibled to at the line based on the look they gave us. It was cover zero. I was just trying to give him (Crabtree) a chance.”
Gore had no chance. After rushing for 67 yards on four carries in the fourth quarter, he was a bystander on the final four plays.
“We got coaches who make those calls,” he said. “Every player wants the ball at the time, but the coaches make the decisions and we just had to make it work.”