Who's to Blame for the San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl XLVII Loss?
For those who thought that all the hubbub leading up to Sunday night's matchup would outshine the game itself, think again. The 34-minute power outage inside the New Orleans Superdome will be talked about for quite a while.
The action on the field was pretty amazing as well.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was named MVP after completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, finishing the postseason with 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Jacoby Jones shone in the passing game with a 56-yard score and also on special teams with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the second half.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin also came through with some big plays, finishing with six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
While credit must be given to Baltimore for coming out on top, the 49ers did themselves zero favors in this game.
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After falling behind 17-0 in the first half to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game two weeks ago, few imagined the San Francisco 49ers would yield similar results on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
Instead, the 49ers defense came out flat, specifically in the defensive backfield. The Ravens went into halftime with a 21-6 lead on the shoulders of Joe Flacco and the passing game.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio failed to call plays that would disrupt Flacco's pocket, oftentimes putting his defense in impossible spots to cover guys like Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
Though San Francisco's defense settled down in the second half—only allowing two field goals—it ended up being a classic too little, too late scenario.
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Simply looking at the box score, Chris Culliver had a pretty solid game for a cornerback, tallying four tackles (one for a loss) and two passes defended.
Actually watching the game would yield much different results, however.
Culliver was already in the spotlight leading up to Super Bowl XLVII for comments made about gay players not being welcome in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room.
A horrible showing—highlighted by looking completely confused on a Joe Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones 56-yard touchdown connection in the second quarter—compounded his rough week.
The cornerback also gave up a long play to Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin in the first quarter and had a pass interference penalty called on him late in the fourth quarter.
The comments forced Culliver into needing a big game to take some of the pressure off of himself. Instead, Baltimore saw the cornerback as a weak link and picked on him the entire way.
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Though the San Francisco 49ers failed to get much going in the first half, it was how offensive coordinator Greg Roman handled the team's final sequence that must be pointed to here.
Roman had previously done a fantastic job of integrating second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick into the 49ers offense this season, but ignoring his dynamic ability on the last drive Sunday night might have cost San Francisco its sixth Super Bowl title.
Instead, the 49ers ran LaMichael James up the middle on first down before throwing to wide receiver Michael Crabtree three consecutive times to end their chances.
Not only did Roman not give Kaepernick a chance to win the game himself, but that final play call on the fade to Crabtree also should have been avoided in that spot.
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The Baltimore Ravens entered Super Bowl XLVII with a sound game plan, only highlighted by solid execution on special teams.
The Ravens called a fake field goal in the second quarter that—though it didn't convert—further put pressure on the San Francisco 49ers. Pinned inside their own 10-yard line, Colin Kaepernick and Co. promptly ran three plays before punting.
Looking back on the game, Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the second half might have been the biggest play of them all. It kept the momentum on the Ravens side after halftime and was totally unexpected at the time.
And while it may have eventually been too late, allowing Ravens punter Sam Koch to run around for eight-plus seconds before taking the safety during Baltimore's final possession was unacceptable.
The 49ers should have expected that it was coming and could have saved some time for the final play by spreading out the rush.
Though Jones' kickoff return had the only real impact on the scoreboard, NFL games are won with attention to detail. The 49ers special teams failed in this one.
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While many players and other coaches can share in the blame for the loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, head coach Jim Harbaugh must shoulder the bulk of it for the San Francisco 49ers.
His team came out as flat as it did against the Atlanta Falcons just two weeks earlier in the NFC Championship Game, and there were times the 49ers looked lost on the field—both on offense and defense.
That falls on the head coach, no matter what happens on the field.
Though Harbaugh did a fantastic job this season, the next step in his career on the NFL sidelines is to perform well on the grandest of stages. The 49ers are a young team headed in the right direction, so we might find out a lot about him as soon as next season.
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