Super Bowl Judgements: Not calling on Colin costs 49ers at the end

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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NEW ORLEANS -- Consider Super Bowl XLVII a lesson for the future, and the lesson is this: Pay attention to who makes a run the 16th week of the season. Green Bay did it in 2010. The Giants followed a year later. And now it's Baltimore, which wins its second Super Bowl despite losing four of its last five regular-season starts. The secret: It started its run with a critical Dec. 23 defeat of the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, a victory that launched it to an improbable run punctuated by Sunday's victory. The Ravens weren't the best team this season. Far from it. But they got hot when it mattered most ... just as Green Bay did two years ago, and the Giants did in 2011. Remember that next December.

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2. San Francisco has only itself to blame for falling short at the end. I mean, Colin Kaepernick is on fire, the Ravens defense is exhausted and you don't call No. 7's number on the most important series of the game? Dumb, dumb, dumb. "[I] was a little surprised," San Francisco safety Donte Whitner said, "but it's Coach's call. If it works you're a genius, and if it doesn't you messed it up." Trust me, Donte. They messed it up.

3. Maybe Cam Cameron was right. Firing him was "a brilliant move," and here's how we know: With Cam, Joe Flacco was 9-4, with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions; without Cam, he was 5-2, with 15 touchdowns and one interception.

4. Flacco just completed one of the most memorable playoff runs in history, a four-game stretch where he had 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, he hasn't thrown an interception since the first half of the Dec. 16 loss to Denver -- a streak of 195 consecutive passes without a pick. So now the question: What does this mean for his next contract? "That's the last thing I'm concerned about," he said. "But [owner Steve Bisciotti] did let me know that if the day came, I could go beat on his desk and really put it to him. So that's exactly what I'm going to do."

5. Give San Francisco this: It had more energy in the second half than the Superdome.

6. I will all but guarantee that was center Matt Birk's last game. The Ravens have Gino Gradkowski waiting to step in, and Birk leaves with his first Super Bowl ring.

7. Without Jacoby Jones, the Ravens don't win a Super Bowl. In fact, they're not even here. He not only had three kickoff returns of 105 yards or more this year; he's the guy who tied Denver three weeks ago with that 70-yard TD with 31 seconds left. When you wonder why Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome is considered the best GM in the business, look no further than his signing of Jones. "[He's] just been a blessing to this team," coach John Harbaugh said.

8. I'm not sure what's going on with Super Bowls, but what once was an annual blowout has become the Greatest Show on Earth. In fact, five of the past six Super Bowls were decided by an average of four points, with none won by more than six points. That contrasts to games like, say, San Francisco's 55-10 demolition of Denver in Super Bowl XXIV or Chicago's 46-10 hammering of New England in Super Bowl XX. Both were played in New Orleans. But that was then, and this is now, and now the Super Bowl has what it once lacked -- suspense.

9. So it's old school. Pocket passers still rule.

10. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say I need a vacation from the name Harbaugh.

11. Somebody tell the Ravens to send roses to Jason Garrett. He's the guy who turned down the job in 2008, allowing John Harbaugh to happen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

12. Maybe Chris Culliver should issue another apology ... this time for that Jacoby Jones TD and fourth-quarter pass interference.

13. Tough weekend for Eddie DeBartolo. First he misses out on the Hall of Fame. Then his sister's 49ers lose their first Super Bowl.

14. Paul Kruger just made himself a lot of money.

15. Dannell Ellerbe just made himself more.

16. Mark it down: "The greatest receiver ever" had two catches ... or one fewer than Vonta Leach.

17. It was 28 degrees at kickoff Sunday at MetLife Stadium, site of next year's Super Bowl, but the lights were working.

18. Coaches keep preaching the importance of the takeaway/turnover ratio, and it's time you listen up. The Ravens held a plus-7 advantage this year, the Giants were a plus-6 in last year's playoffs and the Packers were plus-6 in the 2010 postseason. The 49ers had two giveaways; the Ravens had one, and guess who won? Teams making fewer turnovers in Super Bowls win 92.1 percent of the time.

19. "There's no greater competitor, there's no greater coach in the National Football League -- or in the world, as far as I'm concerned -- than Jim Harbaugh," said his brother, John. So where does that leave John? He's 2-0 against his Jim and just beat him in a Super Bowl.

20. How perfect that it was Baltimore's defense that preserved the victory. Yeah, I know, the Ravens looked gassed, and, yeah, there was no Haloti Ngata. But somehow it held firm after San Francisco had three shots at the end from the Baltimore 5. "How could it be any other way?" Harbaugh said. "It's never pretty, it's never perfect, but it is us."

21. No wonder the 49ers responded to the power outage. They're used to it. They went through one last year at home against Pittsburgh and won. "I immediately thought [of that game]," tackle Joe Staley recalled, "and we came out on fire." They did again Sunday, scoring 17 points in 4:10 to turn a rout into another memorable event.

22. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh didn't understand why the Ravens weren't called for holding when punter Sam Koch took a last-second safety, but someone please explain that Baltimore's holding was smart. BECAUSE THE RAVENS WERE GOING TO GET CALLED FOR A SAFETY ANYWAY. Either way, it comes out the same. "It's a good scheme on their part," Harbaugh said, "to hold as many people as they can, and you teach them just to tackle when you're taking a safety like that. But not one holding penalty was called." So what? If it were, the result is the same.

23. Harbaugh's message to the 49ers afterward? "He just said it sucks to lose, and it does," tackle Alex Boone said. The 49ers never lost a Super Bowl until Sunday. Their quarterbacks had never suffered a Super Bowl interception until Sunday. And they walk off with exactly half what Baltimore earned ($88,000 per man) Sunday. Harbaugh was right. It does suck to lose.

24. After listening to Ray Lewis one last time, I have one question: What exactly did Baltimore's opponents do to tick off God?

25. Who's got it better than the 49ers? I think we know now.

Five things I like

1. Flacco's guts. He had three options when he walked to the line on that third-and-1 call in the fourth quarter, when the situation demanded a Ray Rice dive through the line. Instead, Flacco changed the call and threw a jump ball for Anquan Boldin -- and he made the catch to keep the drive going, run the clock and, eventually, produce a game-clinching field goal. Talk about difficult. "He's got the guts of a burglar," Harbaugh said of his quarterback.

2. Kaepernick's resilience. The guy stunk in the first half, but he was positively sensational in the second half. In fact, the only guys who could stop him were his own coaches -- failing to call his number when San Francisco looked like a certainty to score late. He threw for 163 yards, ran for 46, scored one TD, threw for another and produced a 114.03 passer rating.

3. John Harbaugh taking a safety at the end. So it made it a three-point game. It took all but four seconds off the clock and effectively ended the contest. Smart.

4. Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden joined at the hip. Both were first-round draft picks in 1996. Now Lewis bows out with a Super Bowl victory, and Ogden is named to the Hall of Fame. That's what they call symmetry, people.

5. Michael Strahan's chances of reaching the Hall of Fame next year. The game's in the New York/New Jersey area, and Strahan barely missed this time. What part of that equation don't you understand? The Hall likes good theater, and Strahan going in when the game is in the New York metropolitan area qualifies.

Five things I don't

1. Ray Rice's hands. That makes it five fumbles in his playoff career -- or two more than any other active player.

2. San Francisco's play calling. I'm sorry, but I can't stress it enough. You put the ball in the hands of your playmakers when it counts, and the 49ers didn't do that on that last series. Kaepernick didn't run once after they moved to the 7, and that makes absolutely no sense.

3. Dennis Pitta's third-down drop. Flacco put the ball in a perfect spot, and Pitta should've made the catch. But he didn't, and don't tell me you didn't think back to what happened last year when Wes Welker and Tom Brady couldn't hook up for a first down in Super Bowl XLVI's dying moments. I did. That one happened on second-and-11 at the Giants 44, and there were four minutes left. This one happened on third-and-2 at the San Francisco 20 with just over four minutes left.

4. San Francisco fans complaining about pass interference on the 49ers' last snap. The only reason the 49ers were here is because Navarro Bowman held Roddy White on Atlanta's last gasp in the conference championship -- and no penalty was called. You can't have it both ways.

5. The Giants' and Jets' chances of making Super Bowl XLVIII. Host teams go together with Super Bowls like Tampa and sellouts. It's just doesn't happen. No stadium that has played host to a Super Bowl has had its team involved.

Five guys who have some 'splaining to do

1. Entergy officials. I want something more than "we sincerely apologize for the incident." This is not supposed to happen, and it hasn't ... until now.

2. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. He took a chance by faking a sure first-half field goal and having Justin Tucker run for a first down. It's a gutsy call, but if it doesn't work it's a bad one -- and it didn't. Harbaugh took a sure three points off the board, and it looked huge as the game played out.

3. Baltimore CB Chykie Brown. He runs into David Akers after he blows a 39-yard field goal. So Akers tees it up again, this time from 34 yards away, and makes it.

4. San Francisco LB Ahmad Brooks. He's the guy who lined up offsides on Baltimore's first offensive series, giving the Ravens a do-over on a Ravens' third-down incompletion. Instead of taking the field goal, the Ravens struck for a touchdown -- and, yeah, that was big.

5. San Francisco RB LaMichael James. His fumble killed the 49ers' third drive, one that was guaranteed to deliver nothing less than a field goal. Tell me that wasn't a big mistake ... because it was.

Just asking but ...

 What next for Ed Reed?

 Where does Alex Smith play next year?

 Why have inactives on Super Bowl Sunday?

 Who had the better weekend -- Ray Lewis or Jonathan Ogden?

 How much would you pay Joe Flacco?

Numbers to remember

2 -- LaMichael James fumbles in the playoffs

3 -- Ray Rice fumbles in this year's playoffs

3 -- San Francisco drives in the second half of 75 yards or more

9-4 -- Joe Flacco's playoff record

14-7 -- Baltimore's playoff record

34 -- Minutes that lights were out

The best of Super Bowl XLVII

Play of the Game. Anquan Boldin's first-down catch on third-and-inches at the San Francisco 45 late in the fourth quarter. Virtually everyone expected a run, but Flacco audibled to a pass -- with Boldin making the catch. "It was something we worked on all the time," Boldin said. "I told Joe to give me a chance, and he gave it to me." He stuck it to San Francisco, too. The play set up Justin Tucker's game-clinching field goal.

Offensive Player of the Game. There's a reason Joe Flacco was the fourth consecutive quarterback to be the MVP. He made the plays nobody else did, throwing three touchdown passes, making no mistakes, finishing with a passer rating of 124.2 and producing scores on two of the last three possessions. Flacco threw for 1,140 yards in this postseason, becoming the first quarterback in league history to throw for 1,000 yards and 10 TDs without an interception, and that's not all. Super Bowl XLVII also marked the fourth consecutive playoff game in which Flacco had a passer rating of 106.3 or better.

Defensive Player of the Game. I don't know what Ed Reed's next move is. The guy's an unrestricted free agent, and there's reason to believe he's out the door -- if not retired. But he made two huge plays Sunday -- one an interception and the other a blitz of Kaepernick on a two-point attempt that could've tied the score. Reed forced the quarterback to throw early, preserving the lead and, eventually, the victory.

Coach of the Game. Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell didn't win a Super Bowl as a head coach with Indianapolis, but he did as Flacco's play caller -- making all the right calls as Baltimore jumped to a lead on its first series that it never lost. Flacco thrived under Caldwell's direction, and now you know why Harbaugh wasted no time naming him his OC for next year.

Quote of the Game. "Joe Flacco's the best quarterback in football right now." -- Baltimore running back Ray Rice.

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