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Niners can’t just blame refs for Super Bowl loss

Travis Marmon

Considering the replacement ref debacle that started the 2012 NFL season, it seemed fitting that Super Bowl XLVII was marred with another officiating controversy at the end of the game.

On San Francisco’s last offensive play, Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith got away with an apparent hold on the 49ers’ Michael Crabtree as Colin Kaepernick’s pass sailed over their heads and out of bounds, effectively ending the game. San Francisco supporters believe that their team was robbed. Coach Jim Harbaugh said “there is no question in my mind that there was a pass interference — and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one.”

I hate to break it to you, Niners fans, but any of your complaints about the officiating are just sour grapes. When you start the game in a 21-3 hole (and make it 28-6 after the first play of the second half), you do not deserve to blame the officials for your loss. One penalty that the referees did call was pass interference on San Francisco’s Chris Culliver that extended a Baltimore drive, which culminated in a field goal to put the Ravens ahead 34-29. “Didn’t think that was interference,” Harbaugh said. If Harbaugh had bothered to watch the replay, he would have seen some very obvious interference by Culliver and might actually blame his player for making a stupid mistake that may have cost his team the game.

Instead of blaming the officials or his players, perhaps Harbaugh could blame himself for some questionable coaching decisions. The 49ers’ red zone playcalling was atrocious, and in my eyes it was the primary reason why they couldn’t complete the comeback. This was most evident on the controversial final play. Kaepernick tried to throw a fade to Crabtree immediately after the ball was snapped, which meant that the ball was in the air while Smith was still trying to jam Crabtree at the line of scrimmage — a fairly standard defensive tactic in that part of the field, and one that generates a non-call most of the time.

Here’s the thing: while the fade route from the five-yard line can be a great call if executed correctly, it’s very predictable and leaves the quarterback with limited options — not exactly the kind of call you want to make on fourth down. Especially when you have a quarterback like Kaepernick who can both run all over the field and throw the ball into tight windows at high speeds. On top of that, the Ravens had no pass rush after defensive tackle Haloti Ngata left the game with an injury. Harbaugh should have called a play that gave Kaepernick multiple options instead of trying a one-dimensional play against a veteran defense.

Super Bowl XLVII should go down as objectively one of the greatest Super Bowls in history. After the power outage, it went from a blowout to one of the wildest games ever played. But for as valiant an effort as the 49ers gave, it just wasn’t enough to overcome a huge deficit.

Don’t be like the Seattle fans that are still bitter over Super Bowl XL. This one is not on the officials.

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