To me, there are four defining moments that stick out from the game:
1. The Very First Play
Let’s set the stage for this conversation by noting that teams script their first 15 or so plays for every game in advance so that they go into the game with a plan of attack. Thanks to the two week layover between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl, teams have an especially long amount of time in which to prepare. That first play for the Niners? It had to have been installed at least 10 days ago, and rehearsed a hundred times physically and mentally since then.
The play design was successful: a 20 yard gain by tight end Vernon Davis. The execution? Not so much. And not even because of a hold or a fumble or something that happened in the physical act of playing the down. It was an illegal formation (the tight end was covered up by the wide receiver (which means he was deemed illegible because they both lined up on the line of scrimmage on the same side of the field)) – a mental error. To have a mistake like that occur on a play that has been installed for well over a week – the first play of the game! – that would have resulted in a 20 yard gain for the offense was bad news for the Niners. They seemed unsettled from the get-go, and that first play only reinforced the sentiment.
2. The Blackout
I maintain that it was Jim Harbaugh’s intensity that blew a few thousand fuses and resulted in the second stadium blackout of his career. Be that as it may, the blackout seemed to swing the momentum from the Ravens to the Niners, who were all but momentum-less up to that point. But despite the fact that the Niners scored 17 unanswered points following the blackout, I thought the fact that they had 35 minutes to come up with a winning play call on 3rd and long and yet still didn’t convert was telling.
3. The Non-Call
Ok, this is the tipping point for SB47 controversy. During the Niners final drive in the red zone Kaepernick threw a fade to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith defended the route and there was mutual contact between Crabtree and Smith in what could have been called either holding or pass interference (you can watch the whole play and judge for yourselves here). But there were no flags on the play.
Forgive me, 49ers fans…I think it was a good non-call. For several reasons: 1. It was consistent with how the rest of the game was called. There was a LOT of physicality allowed and personally, I thought it was great. It’s the Super Bowl. The players should be allowed to play all-out for the win. 2. It wasn’t a catchable pass. Contact or no contact, that ball wouldn’t have been caught in-bounds. You can’t reward a bad play with a bad call – especially when it has the potential to decide the winner of the Super Bowl. 3. That there was contact between the two was undeniable, but isn’t contact legal in the first 5 yards? That would take care of the interference call, and to go back to the first point, the refs hadn’t called holding all night. It wouldn’t have been right to call it there, on a questionable play, and not call it in the other situations all night.
This will be rehashed relentlessly for the next weeks/months because we’re pathetic and have nothing else to talk about now that the season’s over, but I don’t think there’s any need. It was a good call.
4. The Safety
The David Tyree catch in Super Bowl 42 was probably the most dramatic ending to a Super Bowl that I remember seeing. But the Ravens intentionally giving away the safety to run out the clock and effectively win the game with only 4 seconds remaining? That has to be the weirdest, most genius end to any Super Bowl I’ve watched in my lifetime. It kind of summed up the Ravens season: it was never pretty, and it was never what you would have expected, but they always got the job done.
Well done, Ravens.
A few of my favorite takeaways from Super Bowl 47:
The beautifully commissioned chalk work showcased on the ESPN promos, the great history of New Orleans Super Bowls, the bursting-with-potential Sam Gordon, the feature CBS did with Chuck Pagano’s daughters, the HarBowl, O.J. Brigance, the blackout, this NFL fan commercial, the safety, Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith. And when I want to go back and remember the game later on when those memories start to fade, I’ll reread these articles from Peter King and Mike Tanier – both worth a read right now if you haven’t seen them yet.
What did you all think? Which plays and moments stood out to you?