49ers Lose 34-31 despite Valiant Rally

By Lucas M.

The San Francisco 49ers, 4.5 point favorites heading into the game, lost 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Sunday. It was a wild game, full of ups and downs – and that’s even before half the lights in the stadium shut off for close to an hour. However, some inconceivable defensive lapses and questionable play-calling down the stretch ultimately doomed the 49ers, who will face a long offseason wondering what might have been if they had caught even one or two more breaks than they did.

“I think we’re the better team,” 49ers running back Frank Gore said. “[I’m] just happy the way we kept fighting. Any other team probably would’ve just laid down, and we let people know what type of guys we’ve got in the locker room, type of warriors we are. It just didn’t happen for us today.”

Baltimore came out guns-a-blazing, and led the 49ers 21-6 at halftime. Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown, giving Baltimore a seemingly insurmountable lead over San Francisco. However, shortly after that the lights turned off, and the tides of the game seemed to shift the way of the 49ers. They scored 17 unanswered points after that, with Colin Kaepernick slinging it all over the field, including a 31-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Indeed, as the game progressed, it looked more and more like the game was going to play out as a repeat of San Francisco’s come from behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game.

However, Baltimore kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter, and after a dazzling 15-yard touchdown run from Kaepernick, the 49ers were forced to go for a two-point conversion. The attempt failed, and Baltimore would kick another field goal before the game was up to seal a 34-31 victory (they also took a safety from the 49ers in order to drain the clock, Ravens punter Sam Koch shuffling around the end zone before eventually running out of bounds to take seven precious seconds off the clock). Of course, there was also a controversial fourth-down no-call on the 49ers last gasp in the game, a toss into the end zone for Michael Crabtree; Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers bench felt there was a holding penalty on the play.

It was a puzzling game for the 49ers in many respects. They virtually shut down the Ravens rushing attack, allowing only 93 yards on 35 carries for the entire Baltimore team, a putrid average of 2.7 yards per rush. San Francisco, meanwhile, racked up 182 yards on the ground on 29 carries, good for 6.3 yards per rush. The entire San Francisco offensive unit outperformed the Ravens, gaining 468 yards to the Ravens’ 367. The 49ers offense was also more explosive, gaining 7.8 yards per play to Baltimore’s 5.2. Like is so often the case in big games, two massive plays shifted the course of the game in Baltimore’s favor. First, it was the 56-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones in the second quarter that made it 21-3. The 49ers never should have been susceptible to such a play, and even if the play did occur, they should’ve touched him down where he fell. Instead, he made the catch, rolled on his back, stood up and ran the rest of the way into the end zone for the score.

The other big impact play, the one before the lights went out, was Jones 108 yard kickoff return. Once again, it was a play that San Francisco should have never allowed to happen. However, they did, and they lost. They might feel like they’re the better team, and they may have even been the better team. However, Baltimore capitalized on Sunday where they did not, and came away with a victory for their more aggressive mindset.