San Francisco 49ers: Did Jim Harbaugh and/or the Refs Cost Them a Championship?

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San Francisco 49ers: Did Jim Harbaugh and/or the Refs Cost Them a Championship?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

So close.

The San Francisco 49ers, for the second consecutive year, were so close.

Last year, it was a fumbled punt (or two) that clearly cost them the NFC Championship. This year, they won the NFC Championship but failed to win in the Super Bowl. And this time, it was a no-call on a critical fourth down that doomed San Francisco.

Did Jimmy Smith hold Michael Crabtree? Should San Francisco have gotten 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line with less than two minutes to go and a chance to take the lead in the biggest game in all of sports?

No.

Smith was matched up with a better receiver, and Crabtree got by him. However, the ball was overthrown and both players made contact with each other. Crabtree wouldn't have made the catch on a completely clean play, and the refs didn't want a Super Bowl to be decided by a ticky-tack call.

Is there anything else to blame the refs for? No. Nothing. The referees did not determine the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII. In fact, they actually called a very good game.

So now, Jim Harbaugh is next in the blame game. After a run on 1st-and-goal in the 49ers' final series, he opted for three straight passes, and since all three were incomplete, ample blame is being placed on the younger Harbaugh's shoulders.

But what people don't realize is that on 3rd-and-goal, Harbaugh sent in the call for a Kaepernick run—one that appeared headed for the end zone, or at least the 1- or 2-yard line. However, Harbaugh had to call timeout because Kaepernick ran down the play clock, something he did in the third quarter as well.

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Those two timeouts cost the 49ers big time, and maybe even the Super Bowl. But it wasn't Harbaugh's fault. Both of those were on Kaepernick's shoulders.

However, the loss shouldn't be on Kaepernick's shoulders. He directed the comeback with some great throws and two touchdowns, bouncing back very nicely from a subpar first half to find success in the second half. So the loss has to be taken as a whole by the team. 

The 49ers were far from perfect. Joe Flacco shredded them, and guys got open deep in the first half, and Jacoby Jones was wide open when he hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from Flacco. Flacco threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns in an MVP performance, and it was easy for him because of San Francisco's secondary. The defensive line got pressure on Flacco but missed some potential sacks and tackles.

It was far from a flawless performance on defense, and it was unusual for the 49ers. Tackles were missed. Sack chances went away as well. Guys were running wild all over the field, wide open. It was a field day for Flacco.

LaMichael James ran for nine yards on his first carry in the first half, and he broke tackles and made a very good run on a blown-up play on his next carry. However, rookie Courtney Upshaw knocked the ball out, and Baltimore recovered. Kaepernick made a terrible overthrow on San Francisco's next offensive play, resulting in an interception and a brawl.

Oh, and did I mention Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown?

San Francisco had sloppy plays and gave up big plays, a recipe for failure for any team, especially in the Super Bowl. The Ravens beat the 49ers fair and square, and you can say the refs wanted the storybook ending for Ray Lewis and the Ravens, seemingly a team of destiny, all you want.

But then, you won't be saying the right thing. 

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