A few observations on yesterday’s game:
Great Players and great plays were key as neither coach distinguished himself.
After two weeks of preparation time, Jim Harbaugh was totally unprepared for the start of the game, and the 49ers lined up in an illegal formation for their first play. The ensuing penalty nullified a good gain, and the tenor of the first half was set – it was all Baltimore, and their momentum continued through the start of the second half.
Jim Harbaugh and his offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, failed miserably on play calling during the most important drive of the game, the failed drive that died on the Ravens’ five yard line with 1:46 left to play in the game. After a 33 yard gain by Frank Gore, which gave him 110 rushing yards in the game, the 49ers had a first down on the seven. LaMichael James then carried the ball for a two yard gain, and SF had a second down on the five. Harbaugh and Roman then disdained the run, whether from one of the best and most powerful running backs in the league, Gore, the elusive and speedy James, or QB Colin Kaepernick, who has been an all-around revelation, both running and passing, since earning the 49er’s QB spot. Three straight passes, all incomplete, and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.
While Jim Harbaugh was clearly out coached by brother John, John had his bad moments as well, most notably his call for a fake field goal. While the basic call is sometimes a solid move to keep a drive alive and as a momentum changer, when he called it, three points might well have been the more prudent alternative. However, my problem with the fake was the fact that it was kicker Justin Tucker that took the direct snap and carried the ball. Where would Baltimore have been if Tucker had gotten injured and was unable to kick, or kick effectively, for the rest of the game? What if that happened, and the 49ers had scored on that last drive, and Flacco then drove the Ravens down to the 40 with seconds remaining, and Tucker were unavailable for a potentially game-winning 57 yard attempt? Generally, it is the holder, in this case Sam Koch, who takes the snap and runs. Why did John H. choose Tucker?
John Harbaugh and his OC, Jim Caldwell, with their play calling were continually putting Joe Flacco on the run and in jeopardy of being sacked, or having to throw the ball away. Flacco’s talent was demonstrated several times when he was able to throw accurately into tight spots and complete passes he had no business completing, as he was about to go down or go out of bounds. He was helped out by the great hands, strength, and elusiveness, of Anquan Boldin, who just seemed to be in the right spot to make a spectacular catch when needed. Much of this was due to the faith the coaching staff seemed to have in Flacco, but no group of coaches should be relying on such low percentage plays so often.
Phil Sims should never again be allowed to do color on an important game.
Phil SIms was absolutely horrible. He began the game with a statement that was so out of sink for a former player and long time announcer, that it defies belief. This is an exact quote, about Joe Flacco: He is “a powerful thrower of the football”. Huh? Did he just step off a turnip truck from outer space? Did he forget to take his meds? Did he forget his glasses and could not read his script? Is there a bolt loose in his robot brain? His one and only incisive comment was made as the second half two-minute warning sounded, when he said that Baltimore should have called a time out BEFORE the clock clicked down to two minutes, to preserve their time, should San Francisco score on that drive.
New Orleans (and CBS) again woefully unprepared.
I won’t go into past history, but suffice it to say, the unpreparedness of New Orleans is legendary. To have no viable back-up for such a power outage was inexcusable, especially in light of information that similar outages occurred twice during halftime rehearsals.
All-in-all, it was an exciting and intriguing game; a fitting end to the football season. Congrats to all my friend in the Baltimore area and environs, and condolences to the bay area people.