Editor's note: The above video is from Feb. 3, 2013, a few hours after the 49ers' loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Some thoughts on Super Bowl 49 after watching intently from my couch . . .
--The Seattle Seahawks’ loss to the New England Patriots will be remembered for what happened on the final play, just as the first thing people think about from 49ers’ defeat in Super Bowl XLVII is the sequence near the goal line. (People tend to forget the costly breakdowns on defense and special teams.)
But the similarity that struck me was an expiring play clock and a timeout. That might have been the reason the 49ers did not take a late lead against the Baltimore Ravens. And it might have cost the Seahawks the game, too.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, the Seahawks made so many checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage that the play clock nearly ran out. Quarterback Russell Wilson called a timeout with 1:50 remaining.
Four plays later after the Seahawks got to the 1-yard line, New England declined to call a timeout after Marshawn Lynch put Seattle on the doorstep of its second consecutive Super Bowl title.
The clock went from 1:06 to 26 seconds remaining when Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler intercepted Wilson’s slant intended for Ricardo Lockette. That turned out to be a good move by the Patriots because Seattle almost certainly would have run the ball. In essence, New England coach Bill Belichick baited the Seahawks into throwing.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll explained he did not want to run the ball against the Patriots’ goal-line defense because he had only one timeout remaining and it was second down. With another timeout, theoretically, the Seahawks would have had the time to run the ball on every down.
But, of course in hindsight, the Seahawks should have run the ball on second down; called a timeout; thrown into the end zone on third down; then, they could’ve run or thrown on fourth down – in the unlikely event it would’ve even gotten that far.
Two years ago (it seems like much longer), the 49ers probably would have taken the lead late in the game with a designed quarterback power run. But before Colin Kaepernick could get the snap, Jim Harbaugh called a timeout from the sideline to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.
During that sequence, the 49ers had the ball at the 5-yard line on second down after LaMichael James carried for 2 yards on first down. (Frank Gore was out of the game, winded after a 33-yard run.) Kaepernick intended three passes for Michael Crabtree, which resulted in three incompletions.
--Another often-ignored aspect of the 49ers’ loss is that quarterback Joe Flacco would have had plenty of time for the Ravens to get the last word. If the 49ers had scored a touchdown, they would have either gone up by one or three points, depending on the outcome of the two-point conversion. The 49ers would have kicked off no sooner than with 1:46 remaining.
--Afterward, Carroll freely and fully explained what he and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were thinking:
“We were going to win the game. We had everything in mind with how we were going to do it. We were going to leave them no time. We had our plays to do it. We had sent in our personnel, they sent in goal line. It’s not the right matchup for us to run the football. On second down we’d throw the ball — really to kind of waste that play. If we score we do. If we don’t, we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really, with no second thoughts and no hesitations at all.”
--Carroll explained his thinking over and over – and reportedly sought out members of the media to explain himself, too.
After Super Bowl XLVII, Harbaugh never explained the team’s thinking during their critical sequence and bristled at suggestions that Gore should have touched the ball at some point.
Not that it really matters. Even with Carroll’s PR campaign and his cushy relationship with the national media, the decision to take the ball out of Lynch’s hands is being universally panned.
--Perhaps worse than the Seahawks’ decision to throw the ball was their play call of what route combination to use at the goal line. The pass pattern was so obvious that a rookie cornerback from West Alabama, Malcolm Butler, knew exactly what was coming and beat Lockette to the spot for the game-clinching play.
--Lockette had three catches for 59 yards. Two summers ago, he was among the first 49ers receivers released in training camp. The 49ers cut him to make room for quarterback Seneca Wallace. Chris Matthews was working at Foot Locker when the Seahawks called him up for a tryout.
Despite his ill-advised final pass, Wilson has proved to be the kind of quarterback who makes wide receivers better. It’s a quality all the great ones have – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, to name a few. Wide receivers are much better with those quarterbacks.
That’s the priority for Colin Kaepernick this offseason as he spends time working on fundamentals and the mental aspect of playing the position. In order for the 49ers to make it back to among the NFL’s elite, Kaepernick must improve his game to the point that he makes his receivers look better, too.