It’s a shame when one’s lasting image of a big football game is a blown call, and even worse when the blown call comes near the end of the game.
For many, and at least for me, the lasting image of Super Bowl XLVII is Forty Niners receiver Michael Crabtree tangled in the arms of Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith on a San Francisco 4th-and-goal try from the 5-yard line on which a holding call should have been made. Since no one likes to have a game — any game, let alone the Super Bowl — decided by a referee’s call, many are denying that this the case. I’m hearing on ESPN and WFAN, “Crabtree should have done a better job of getting clear on fourth down.” He didn’t, and his team lost.
But this is beside the point; clearly Smith had no intention of letting the much taller Crabtree get free into that corner of the end zone where he couldn’t cover him, and, as you can clearly see from the replay, there’s no question that Smith grabbed Crabtree and held on for dear life. And there’s no question who initiated the contact.
Why, then, isn’t there more of an uproar about this play and the officials’ failure to do their job?
Probably, I think, because there’s a sense that what happened, in the end, is what should have happened. The play itself was a microcosm of how Jim Harbaugh’s team played in their 35-31 loss to Baltimore. Simply put, it was ill conceived — even if done right, a fade pass into the corner of the end zone is a long shot — and executed. Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a bad throw off his back foot, and the ball sailed over Crabtree’s head and out of bounds.
San Francisco screwed up so many key plays, especially on that final series from the Baltimore five, that they really didn’t deserve to be bailed out by a penalty call. You had the feeling that even if they had gotten the first down and the ball between the two or three-yard line (which is where the ball would have been placed if a penalty had been assessed, not on the one-yard mark since it wasn’t a catchable pass)they would have found a way to screw it up.