49ers vs. Ravens: San Francisco's Biggest Winners and Losers in the Super Bowl
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The 49ers vs. Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII matched brothers Jim and John Harbaugh as head coaches of their respective teams. The 49ers were on a quest to win their 6th world championship, which would tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl victories in the history of the NFL.
Heading into the game, there were several great stories to follow.
How would Colin Kaepernick perform on the biggest stage in only the tenth start of his career?
Ray Lewis announced his retirement late in the season and has since returned from a severe arm injury to lead the Ravens' defense.
There are the rags to riches stories of perseverance and personal triumph of Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and Michael Oher.
There was Randy Moss proclaiming that he was the greatest wide receiver ever.
Would Joe Flacco elevate his status from being a very good quarterback to an elite-level quarterback?
During media day, 49er nickelback Chris Culliver made disparaging homophobic remarks. Would this be a distraction to him or the 49ers in the final days before the game?
In Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead, then Jacoby Jones took the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. There was a blatant hold on 49er coverage man Bruce Miller which paved the way for the Jones return.
The 49ers trailed 28-6 when a power outage caused a 34-minute delay. This gave the 49ers some time to regroup and they roared back behind Colin Kaepernick and some solid defense.
With the Ravens leading 34-29, the 49ers drove the ball to the Baltimore five-yard line. They could get no farther, as the Ravens' defense held and after a self-imposed safety, the Ravens came away with a 34-31 victory.
In any Super Bowl, there are truly no losers. The accomplishment of getting to this point makes both teams and their players winners. However, if we take a closer look at the game, let's look at those 49ers who made the most positive or negative impacts in this contest.
It is these players who will be classified as the 49ers' winners and losers from Super Bowl XLVII.
Winner No. 5: Tarell Brown
Tarell Brown strips Ray Rice and recovers the fumble.
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Tarell Brown, along with Dashon Goldson, played the best game in the 49ers' defensive backfield. Brown was rarely targeted, as Joe Flacco chose to challenge Chris Culliver, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner in the 49ers' secondary.
Brown was responsible for the 49ers' only take-away. On a short pass to Ray Rice in the third quarter, Brown stripped Rice of the ball and recovered the fumble at the Baltimore 24-yard line.
Brown's play resulted in a 34-yard David Akers field goal.
Loser No. 5: Donte Whitner
Donte Whitner is unable to stop Anquan Boldin's TD reception.
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Donte Whitner was just a step late on three key plays. In the first quarter, Whitner and linebacker NaVorro Bowman were momentarily frozen by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
On a play-action fake, Flacco held Bowman and looked off Whitner. Anquan Boldin slid behind Bowman and away from Whitner. Flacco found Boldin for a 13-yard touchdown reception. This play gave the Ravens an early 7-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Whitner allowed tight end Ed Dickson to make two big catches, totalling 37 yards. The play which gave Baltimore their second score was a short throw to tight end Dennis Pitta. Again, Whitner was a step late and could not make the play.
In this drive, Whitner was victimized for four receptions and a facemask penalty.
Winner No. 4: Frank Gore
Frank Gore gave it everything he had.
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Frank Gore is the ultimate warrior on the football field. For eight seasons, Gore has given his heart and soul to the San Francisco 49ers.
In Super Bowl XLVII, Gore started slowly but kept plugging away and got stronger as the game progressed. He finished the game with 110 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Gore also did his typically strong job in pass blocking.
Gore's six-yard touchdown run in the third quarter cut the Baltimore lead to 28-20.
In the fourth quarter, in the 49ers' final drive of the game, Gore had his best run of the day. He initially went left, off-tackle, then cut to the outside and raced down the sideline for a 33-yard run. This put the ball at the Baltimore seven-yard line.
Four plays later, the 49ers were unable to get the ball into the end zone and that was the game.
Loser No. 4: Greg Roman
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman had two questionable sequences.
The 49ers' offense played well for the most part and I give Greg Roman a lot of credit for this. The 49ers generated 468 yards of total offense, 101 yards more than the Ravens.
The first questionable situation occurred after Colin Kaepernick's 15-yard touchdown run. The 49ers cut the lead to 31-29 and could have tied it with a two-point conversion.
The 49ers seemed a bit disconcerted as they ran the play for the conversion. Kaepernick's throw to Randy Moss fell incomplete. This was a very questionable play-call, because Moss is not the 49ers' best option in this situation.
A play action, run-pass option, utilizing Kaepernick's speed and targeting Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis would have been a much better call. In a one-on-one situation, few defenders would be able to stop Kaepernick from getting two yards, if he chose to run.
Late in the game, with the 49ers having a first-and-goal at the Baltimore seven, the 49ers tried an inside run, which gained only two yards. Then, three straight pass plays to the right, with really only one or two receiving options available, fell incomplete.
Again, Roman failed to give Kaepernick a run-pass option and the 49ers were unable to score. If Kaepernick had three run-pass option plays, it's very unlikely Baltimore would have been able to stop him.
Winner No. 3: Vernon Davis
This long pass was just off the fingertips of Vernon Davis.
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Oh, what might have been. Colin Kaepernick's long pass to Vernon Davis was about two inches too far and Davis was unable to hang on. Had he made the catch, the 49ers would have had the Ravens on the run.
They ultimately got inside the Ravens' ten-yard line, but the Baltimore defense held. Had Davis been able to hang onto the long pass, the 49ers would have had the chance to score with more time on the clock.
That one play notwithstanding, Davis still had a strong game. He had six catches for 104 yards and consistently got open down the field. He and fellow tight end Delanie Walker created matchup problems for the Ravens' defense.
Loser No. 3: LaMichael James
LaMichael James' fumble killed a promising drive.
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LaMichael James was struggling for extra yardage when he was hit by Courtney Upshaw. He coughed the ball up and it was recovered by Arthur Jones at the Ravens' 25-yard line. The 49ers were driving and the fumble cost the 49ers a chance to take the lead.
The turnover thwarted the 49ers' drive and ultimately led to a Ravens touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
James was not much of a factor in the 49ers' offense. He carried the ball three times for only 10 yards. James also did not make any catches in the game.
James was contained on his kickoff returns, as he had three returns for 75 yards. He was unable to get the ball out to the 25-yard line on any of his returns.
Winner No. 2: Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick scores on a 15-yard touchdown run.
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Colin Kaepernick again showed why Jim Harbaugh installed him as the 49ers' starting quarterback. The Super Bowl was only the tenth start of Kaepernick's career.
Kaepernick made one bad pass when he overthrew Randy Moss, resulting in an Ed Reed interception.
There were two other plays when the 49ers were forced to waste timeouts in the second half. Kaepernick was unable to get the play off and the 49ers called the two timeouts to prevent delay-of-game penalties.
Outside of these mistakes, Kaepernick played a very solid game. He completed 16-28 passes for 302 yards and one touchdown. Kaepernick was also quite effective running the ball with 62 yards on seven rushing attempts.
The 49ers are in great shape with Kaepernick at the helm. He will continue to improve and has a great mentor in Jim Harbaugh.
Loser No. 2: Aldon Smith
Aldon Smith missed several tackles against the Ravens.
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Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks during the regular season. However, he had no sacks in his last five and a half games.
In the Super Bowl, Smith again was not a force. He had only one solo tackle and an assist; he also had opportunities to make plays in the Ravens' backfield but missed tackles.
Whether it was due to injury or just being worn down, Smith faded badly in the last few games and the Super Bowl was no different.
Winner No. 1: Michael Crabtree
Michael Crabtree had over 100 yards receiving.
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Michael Crabtree has emerged as a true No. 1 receiver. He had his first 1,000 yard season and made several good plays in Super Bowl XLVII.
Crabtree had five catches for 109 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown reception was something special, as he made a catch at about the Baltimore 15-yard line, bounced off two tacklers and sprinted into the end zone. It was a 31-yard catch and run for the 49ers' first touchdown.
What made Crabtree's emergence this season even more impressive is the 49ers' other active receivers are not top-tier players. Mario Manningham was injured, as was Kyle Williams. Both were lost for the season.
The remaining receivers, Randy Moss, Ted Ginn, A.J. Jenkins and Chad Hall did not get the job done. Moss has trouble getting separation and is nowhere near the same threat he was in his prime.
Ginn is best utilized as a return specialist, but is a poor wide receiver. Jenkins, the 49ers' top draft pick, made no catches all season and was a huge disappointment. Chad Hall was a practice squad player, who was promoted over Jenkins, but also had no catches.
The 49ers will need to give Crabtree some help and bolster their receiving corps heading into next season.
Loser No. 1: Chris Culliver
Chris Culliver allowed this 56-yard touchdown to Jacoby Jones when he failed to touch him down. Jones got up and scored.
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Chris Culliver had a terrible Super Bowl experience. During the week, he made a major gaffe by making homophobic comments disparaging gays. Culliver showed his immaturity and paid a heavy price in the media.
Culliver was the weak link in the 49ers' defense. Joe Flacco and the Ravens regularly attacked Culliver and found much success.
In the first half, Culliver allowed a 30-yard completion to Anquan Boldin on a third and seven yard play, when the 49ers had flushed Flacco from the pocket.
What made this play even more irritating was that after the completion, Culliver was trash-talking with Boldin. Trash-talking after you just got beaten makes you look foolish and Culliver fell right into that trap.
Late in the first half, Culliver was burned by Jacoby Jones on a deep pass, when he bit on a hesitation by Jones and Jones ran right by him. Jones caught the ball around the eight-yard line and instead of touching him, Culliver leaped around Jones.
Jones got up, eluded both Dashon Goldson and Culliver and ran into the end zone. Culliver compounded his mistake on the completion by letting Jones get up and score.
In the second half, Culliver allowed another big first-down reception by Boldin. Boldin caught a 15-yard pass from Flacco and stiff-armed Culliver, who could not make the tackle or push him out of bounds for another 15 yards.
The 49ers also had the Ravens stopped in the fourth quarter, but a pass interference penalty against Culliver gave the Ravens 14 yards and a key first down. Baltimore would take over four more minutes off the clock and ultimately get a field goal.
The Ravens saw a player who was over-aggressive and susceptible to allowing big plays. They exploited Culliver and that was a huge reason for the Baltimore victory.
There Will Be Several Changes Before the 2013 Season
It's unlikely that Alex Smith will be with the 49ers next season.
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In big games, turnovers, mistakes and big plays often make the difference between winning and losing. The 49ers allowed more big plays, made more mistakes and lost the turnover battle. In the end, although the 49ers outgained the Ravens by over 100 yards, these errors cost the 49ers the game.
Early in the season, I specifically made the point that the 49er special teams, specifically their inconsistent coverage units, would potentially come back to haunt them. It haunted them in the Super Bowl as the Jacoby Jones kickoff return gave the Ravens a 28-6 lead that proved to be too much for the 49ers to overcome.
Looking ahead, the 49ers will make several changes and have many new faces as they try to get back to the Super Bowl and win it next season. The 49ers need to strengthen their wide receiver corps and bolster their depth on the defensive line.
Players like Alex Smith, David Akers, Isaac Sopoaga, Jonathan Goodwin, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn are the most unlikely to return. Salary cap concerns and the age of some of these players make their futures with the 49ers very tenuous.
The 49ers missed an opportunity in this Super Bowl and these chances do not come around all that often. Injuries and luck play a major role in the success of any team and, as we have seen in the 49ers' losses to the Giants in the 2012 NFC title game and again in the Super Bowl, mistakes can derail even an outstanding team.
The 49ers have a strong core and, with good health and adding a few key difference-makers, will challenge for the title again next year. The NFC West will be tough, with the improvement of the Rams and Seahawks, but the 49ers should still be the team to beat.