And Then The Lights Went Out

I love conspiracy theories and I heard one of the best ones in awhile last night. Since Silicon Valley is home to a large population of computer engineers and very close to San Francisco, a disgruntled 49ers fan must have hacked the lights at the Super Bowl. I would guess that wasn’t the case, but whatever the reason that blackout probably saved the game.

Trailing 28-6 the 49ers came back to life and made a game of it. Suddenly it was 28-20 and when Ray Rice fumbled on his own 24, I really thought the 49ers were going to steamroll the Ravens. But the Baltimore defense played tough and the 49ers had to settle for a field goal on their second chance. (Take a look at that running into the kicker penalty in slo-mo if you can find it. We rewound it several times on TIVO and were unanimous in our verdict that the Baltimore player didn’t touch Akers.) Baltimore was on the ropes, but they did just enough to win the game. They put together two lengthy drives that resulted in two field goals and with 4:19 to go in the game, they held a 34-29 lead.

But here is where there were some really interesting coaching decisions. San Francisco got down to the Baltimore 7 with 2:39 left in the game. They ran the ball, picking up two yards, but then Baltimore let the clock run down to the two-minute warning. It was a gutsy call because if San Francisco had scored, Baltimore would not have had much time to try and tie the game.

The 49ers coaches had a weird set of play calls after that. Five yards from the end zone and they called three-straight passes. First off, why not try and run at least once? At worst, you probably get a bit closer. But also, you want to run the clock down at this point because even if you score you only have a one-point lead or a three-point lead with the two-point conversion. We know what happened and I don’t think a flag should have been called on the final pass. Both players were pushing and grabbing, a flag could have gone against either, so no call makes the most sense to me.

The final 1:46 kind of gets lost in the shuffle, but it included a great piece of strategy by Baltimore and a rule that has to be changed. With a five-point lead and facing a 4th-and-7 with 12 seconds left in the game from their own 8, the Ravens decided to take the safety instead of risking a punt block. It’s a brilliant move because you get to waste some time and then free kick the ball down the field leaving San Francisco very little chance of getting into field goal range. In fact, Baltimore took 8 seconds off the clock because they liberally and illegally held a number of 49ers on the play. The reason they did is because the worst thing that could happen to them was a penalty flag and an automatic safety for holding in the end zone. The league should strongly consider changing the rule to an automatic safety and the clock being reset to the time of the original snap. If that had happened, the 49ers would have received the kickoff and probably had a chance to run one play. I’m not saying the result would have been different, but the rule is unfair as currently enforced.

And with that the football season is now over and we have almost seven months to wait until we see a game that counts again. On the plus side, pitchers and catchers report next week!

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