Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
04 Feb 2013
compiled by Rivers McCown
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. The amount of text dedicated to the specific elements in a specific game do not necessarily represent our belief about what were the most important issues in that game. These just happened to be the thoughts that came to us at the time.
In addition, we watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
This is not really a problem for this week, of course.
Aaron Schatz: 9,000 HOURS OF PREGAME!!!!!
Tom Gower: I feel like letting the rest of the staff know that a commenter on this week's Scramble objected to our inclusion of Ray Lewis on the All-KCW team (on the grounds of having over 50 plays and only one Defeat) because the Ravens had a better record with Lewis in the lineup than they did without him. LINEBACKER WINS FTW!
Vince Verhei: You know, I would be a lot more comfortable with quarterback wins if they were used to judge other positions too.
Ben Muth: My favorite was when people were talking about Trindon Holliday being undefeated this year. Return specialist wins are the best wins.
Aaron Schatz: I also like punter wins. Back in 2009, Brett Kern was cut by the 6-0 Broncos and picked up by the 0-6 Titans, who then went 8-2 the rest of the way, Kern had the best record of any player in the NFL that season.
Tom Gower: Who can forget the great 2009 Week 13 showdown between the 11-0 Indianapolis Colts and 11-0 Brett Kern? The Colts won that day, but both finished 14-2 on the season.
Rivers McCown: Amateurs. We all know that long snapper wins are the only wins that truly matter.
Andy Benoit: All set up here in press row. Extremely cramped, but it's the Super Bowl, can't complain.
Aaron Schatz: No, complaining is for next year when auxiliary press space is outside in the snow.
Andy Benoit: More Ravens fans than Niners fans in the building tonight.
Ben Muth: Illegal formation on the first play of the game is as bad as it gets.
Tom Gower: What a lousy opening drive for the 49ers, with the illegal formation penalty (how?!) and the second-down play-fake to the wrong side (?!). Great pancake by Frank Gore of Arthur Jones on the play, but still...
Tom Gower: The slot receiver was definitely covering Davis.
Danny Tuccitto: Davis WAS in the slot. I'm confused.
Tom Gower: The player lined up in the slot covered up the player lined up as the inline tight end, whoever those were.
Ben Muth: That illegal formation might replace Leon Lett getting stripped by Don Beebe as the dumbest play in Super Bowl history. They've ran or walked through that play a dozen times in the past week. Incredibly stupid.
Andy Benoit: Great formation design on the first Ravens touchdown. Empty 3x2 set with Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith each aligned tight in the slot. That got them matched on linebackers, and Boldin was open over the middle on a relatively easy pitch and catch.
Matt Waldman: Boldin does a nice Shannon Sharpe at this age.
Mike Kurtz: While the Ravens scored a touchdown, the play of their receivers on the second down was absolutely abysmal. Joe Flacco bought them tons of time, moved up in the pocket, got outside and made the linebackers pursue him. Three of his eligibles? Basically standing still on the other side of the field, making no attempt at moving to the right side. Absolutely pathetic effort.
Danny Tuccitto: And now that the Ravens scored on their first drive, I'm agitated. How does Ahmad Brooks jump offsides when he's lined up over the ball?
Andy Benoit: Ravens appear to be defending the read-option like the Falcons did.
Aaron Schatz: Similar to how they did against the Redskins, I guess. Make them hand off and hope you can stop the running back.
On second-and-goal, was Terrell Suggs supposed to be left unblocked? It wasn't a read-option ... that looked like a mistake. The Ravens didn't get the sack there, but they did on the next play.
Danny Tuccitto: The long pass to Davis on the 49ers second drive came with Ed Reed as the single-high safety in Cover-1, which is one of the ways Chris Brown said Baltimore might defend San Francisco's pistol read-option.
And now that I think about it, Reed was single-high safety again on the incompletion to Crabtree at the goal line, which looked to me like it was intended to Randy Moss, who was wide open.
Andy Benoit: Niners are running almost all twin wideout sets, and the Ravens are not having cornerbacks switch with it. They’re staying with zone concepts in quarters coverages.
Ben Muth: Ravens are really timing up the snap. Two plays in a row at the end of the drive, the Ravens had guys get great jumps. The second time was a sack for Paul Kruger where Anthony Davis didn't even have a chance because of Kruger's jump. Colin Kaepernick has to change up the count.
Aaron Schatz: What's the difference between Pepsi Next and Pepsi One? I'm getting seriously confused on my low-calorie soda alternatives.
Tom Gower: Apparently Pepsi One is the low-cal soda and Pepsi Next is the one with the hallucinogenics.
Ray Lewis looked every bit as old as I thought he was on that second 49ers drive. If Davis is able to play and move like he's capable of moving, that should be every bit the problem I thought it would be.
Mike Kurtz: Lewis is a massive liability thus far today. The Niners are running at him, they're throwing at him, and it's working nearly every time.
Aaron Schatz: Wow. Boldin, wow. I don't know what Chris Culliver was doing on that play. I thought Flacco was throwing it away, and Boldin moves over to get it, and for some reason right when they're about to get to the ball, Culliver kind of held up, and that allowed Boldin to catch it. I have no idea why Culliver kind of held up there. Afraid of an unnecessary roughness call if he hit Boldin? That's the only thing I can think of.
Andy Benoit: Ravens going no huddle but they’re not hurrying. They’re also substituting. Niners playing a lot of straight two-man. Good coverage was led to the Ray McDonald sack at end of first quarter.
Ben Muth: 49ers run a tackle-end twist for a sack. Ravens have been sliding towards the left, leaving the right side in man. Tough to pass off twists in two-on-two man protection.
Aaron Schatz: If I have to read another "Boy, that throw shows Flacco is elite!" tweet on the Twitter, I am going to hurt someone. I'm sorry, five months ago when you people thought Flacco sucked, you didn't notice he had a lot of arm strength?
Rivers McCown: Every throw that Quarterback X makes is more important now than the ones that preceded it, don't you understand?
Vince Verhei: 49ers' first two drives were almost all pistol or shotgun. They weren't using them that exclusively in their first playoff games, were they?
Aaron Schatz: LaMichael James just fumbled. He definitely lost it before he was down. But am I crazy to think there was a facemask by a Ravens defender earlier in that play that got missed?
Andy Benoit: Against read-option, Ravens are attacking Kaepernick with their outside linebackers and dropping Bernard Pollard into the box to shore up at second level. Kaepernick is handing off, Gore getting good yards inside due to Niners winning in the trenches.
Aaron Schatz: Too much zone by the 49ers defense here. I think they need to go more man. We know the Ravens struggle to beat man, and the big catches are mostly coming on zone, like where Ed Dickson was wide open coming over the middle with about nine minutes left in the second quarter.
Danny Tuccitto: Can the first quarter-and-a-half be any more of a testament to the randomness of football? So far, we have Flacco heaving balls into the air that find receivers, Dickson catching passes that ricochet off himself, Baltimore recovering a fumble, and San Francisco getting called for several penalties. 49ers down 14-3, and I'm ready to give up on the idea of an orderly universe.
Aaron Schatz: Well, Kaepernick's interception was absolutely not random. That sucker was seriously overthrown. That was a big, big miss, and all the quarterback's fault.
Ben Muth: Kaepernick audibles to a deep play-action pass and throws a pick. Then there's a huge scrum that leads to offsetting personal fouls. I have no idea what happened because CBS' 250 cameras didn't catch how it started.
Andy Benoit: Did it look like Moss completely quit on the interception to anyone else?
Aaron Schatz: The ball was five feet over his head, what was he supposed to do? Or do you mean that he quit as in "he didn't try to tackle Reed after the pick?"
Tom Gower: I didn't love Moss's effort on the route, either, but it didn't make a difference.
Matt Waldman: Regardless of how one feels about Moss' effort, one glaring issue with Kaepernick's game at this early stage of his career as a starter is the fact that since he's been in the lineup, he lacks the touch, timing, and anticipation to make the most of Moss' skills. Of course, Moss is not the same player, but his ability to track the ball and play in tight coverage is every bit as good as what we've seen from an aging Boldin this year. The problem is that Kaepernick is hesitant to throw his receivers open. Young quarterbacks typically don't possess this level of confidence in situations where it makes sense to throw it. They are either too reckless or too conservative. When a player like Kurt Warner talks about how difficult it was to overcome his reticence to target Larry Fitzgerald in tight coverage -- perhaps the best tight-coverage receiver in the game today -- just imagine how difficult it must be for a younger passer. And no, this analysis does not imply Alex Smith would be better. Smith cannot throw the deep ball with anticipation. He might be better in red-zone situations, but not enough that you bench Kaepernick for a veteran who "might" have better touch with an aging vet who might be the third option in this passing game.
Tom Gower: Remember when Aldon Smith was a defensive player of the year candidate? That feels like a very, very, very long time ago right now.
Aaron Schatz: Ravens seem to be putting a number of spread formations out there, trying to force the 49ers to put cornerbacks on tight ends and running backs while they put safeties or linebackers on receivers. That worked on the first Boldin touchdown, and I've seen it working a few times since.
FAKE!!!! I called it! I called it! And it fails! I don't think you call a fake field goal with nine yards to go.
Vince Verhei: Not on a pitch to the kicker, that's for sure.
Tom Gower: I concur. Eight or nine yards to go is just too far for me, though if Dickson (I believe) gets a better block, I think Tucker probably makes it.
Aaron Schatz: OK, I'm generally not a believer that the team with more experience should be favored in the Super Bowl, but I do wonder if we're starting to see rookie mistakes and misunderstandings from Kaepernick here. That almost-pick by Cary Williams was pretty bad.
OK, "first-time starter" mistakes rather than "rookie" mistakes, I suppose.
Tom Gower: He didn't throw with anticipation, and the throw was too far to the inside. Is that the result of inexperience in pressure situations or just a non-great player (who'd played great at times during the playoffs) making non-great plays? My vote is for the latter.
Vince Verhei: 49ers have gone with the give-up draw on third-and-long twice in the first half. That's an "I don't have faith in my quarterback" call.
Ben Muth: Finally saw what started the fight on the pick thanks to CBS.com's awesome All-22 camera. Ravens end Jones tried to throw a late and dirty cut block on Joe Staley. It was like the block that knocked Brian Cushing out for the year, but a hair after the whistle. Staley was pissed and dove on Jones, starting the scrum.
Aaron Schatz: We officially have to have a "why was that not offensive pass interference on Torrey Smith?" comment in Audibles, right?
Mike Kurtz: Because he was arm-barred and the back judge probably decided it was all just handfighting.
Aaron Schatz: Jacoby Jones touchdown. Right side, of course. How many times tonight have we seen a Ravens receiver with two or three 49ers defenders standing in front of him, and the Ravens guy somehow jukes and maneuvers his way around the defenders to get extra yards, and a first down or a touchdown? What is going on with the 49ers and tackling guys in space?
Tom Gower: Jones double-moved Culliver and got ridiculously wide open. Whitner continued his stupendous evening, I believe, by losing his deep coverage.
Andy Benoit: Culliver thought the safety over the top would help but that safety was preoccupied by an underneath route extending in seams. Culliver’s body language in coverage suggested that he was not supposed to get help in that situation, like he realized his mistake.
Danny Tuccitto: Nice of Whitner to show up today.
By the way, did anyone else catch Phil Simms saying, on first down around the two-minute warning down 21-3, something to the effect of "Kaepernick needs to be really conservative with the ball here?" They're freaking down 18 with two timeouts left. What? Are they supposed to just kneel the ball and concede an 18-point deficit at halftime?
Andy Benoit: Kaepernick had Crabtree on a rollout on that third-and-2 late in the first half, but he didn’t pull the trigger on the crossing pattern. Elected to tuck and run instead. Unsuccessful.
Vince Verhei: Well, he had him, but the play wouldn't have been a touchdown anyway. It would have bought them another shot or two at the end zone, but they might have kicked a field goal anyway.
Ben Muth: I thought Kaepernick was pretty brutal in that first half. After the first drive, I think you can blame the stalling of every 49ers drive on him. Kruger gets a sack because they weren't changing up the count, he hands off to James on an obvious keep read and James fumbles, he throws a pick, and he doesn't see Crabtree (who should be the first option) on that sprint out to end the half.
Whitner has been beyond bad. It's like Craig Morton is playing safety.
Also, I thought Michael Oher has been solid except for that one sack, and I give half the credit of that to Flacco/coverage.
Aaron Schatz: So, what do we think the 49ers have to do at halftime to adjust, other than "play better" and "tackle guys in space" and "stop making mistakes?"
Rivers McCown: Stop running Gary Kubiak's patented third-and-long give-up draws. Throw to Vernon Davis.
Matt Waldman: I think beyond what Rivers mentioned, I'd like to see a little more of LaMichael James. The Ravens defense can't cope with that kind of speed and the 49ers have very little of that beyond Davis. Since Jim Harbaugh isn't as conservative as Tom Coughlin about turnovers, I'd expect to see a little more of James because he was playing well before that effort fumble cost the 49ers early.
Mike Kurtz: Get back to exploiting Ray Lewis. Throw the book at him, Reed will have to start moving up to help and the top will be wide open.
Aaron Schatz: I'm all about the Destiny's Child reunion, but someone tell them that ten years later, you are allowed to remove the movie references from your movie tie-in song.
Andy Benoit: Aaron, you're nitpicking! Destiny's Child was awesome!
Aaron Schatz: Oh, totally nitpicking. It was great.
Vince Verhei: I had to leave the house for "Single Ladies." Then my fiancée locked me out. Had she not let me back in, the lady would have indeed been single.
Rivers McCown: She'd have most of your worldly possessions, though. It wouldn't be so bad.
Aaron Schatz: Jacoby Jones kickoff return, there are the Baltimore special teams. There have been some crazy comebacks this season, but yeah, this one seems pretty over.
I can't identify from the TV tape who the 49ers coverage guy that totally blew a tackle at the start of that return was. That guy is not going to be feeling very good about himself for the next couple weeks.
Vince Verhei: Remember how Jacoby Jones' playoff season ended last year? He's doing better here.
Matt Waldman: What is it with these former Texans special team return specialists, Rivers?
Rivers McCown: Amazing what happens when they play on special teams units that have an actual coordinator.
Aaron Schatz: The second-guessing about the Texans letting guys go is getting a little ridiculous, though. It's like people don't remember that Jones' mistakes in last year's playoffs ever happened.
Matt Waldman: Jones' game is basically executing like a starter for 99 percent of a play, then doing that one percent so incredibly wrong that it ruins the execution and rips the heart out of coaches and teammates at the same time. I don't blame Houston for letting him go, but I am happy that he's doing better. He has been a tease since he looked so promising at the college level.
Ben Muth: Kaepernick basically just sacked himself, though Arthur Jones will get credit. He's going into full-blown panic mode in the pocket; he looks at one guy and then immediately tries to run around and make a play. He did the same thing against Seattle.
Danny Tuccitto: Alright, guys. I'm checking out of this to go drown my sorrows. I'll simply note in closing that it would really do us good to figure out why the better team loses every Super Bowl these days.
Mike Kurtz: Super Bowl XLVII: Into Darkness
Tom Gower: Nice job, Danny, taking the Superdome lights down with you.
Matt Waldman: He must have been singing Dandy Don Meredith's ditty as he left.
Danny Tuccitto: My brother just texted me intimating the same thing. Apparently, my superpower is electromagnetic pulse.
Ben Muth: And now the power is out, I assume it's a distraction from Goodell so no one can see Jim Harbaugh eating the heart of his special teams coach.
Rivers McCown: What is taking Bane so long? Does he really want us to watch Bill Cowher stump for Alex Smith that badly? Well, I guess that is kind of evil...
Mike Kurtz: I remember last year, when a power outage occurred in an important game involving the 49ers.
I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'.
Danny Tuccitto: So, according to Shannon Sharpe, all it takes to return a kickoff for a touchdown is to "know when it's kicked that you're bringing the ball out."
Andy Benoit: At least that wasn't as bad as the last time the Superdome lost power...
Aaron Schatz: To respond to Danny's comment: "it would really do us good to figure out why the better team loses every Super Bowl these days."
I honestly think the answer is just "Wyatt Earp."
The low-seeded team going on an unexpected run to a Super Bowl title is now as emblematic of this era as the NFC blowout victory was emblematic of another era. And just like that trend, eventually, this too shall pass. I really don't think it's an issue of "regular-season performance is no longer indicative of postseason performance, period."
It looks like a trend, for sure. From 1978 through 2006, only one team won a Super Bowl after going 10-6 or worse. Assuming the 49ers don't make a massive comeback here, this will be the fourth time since 2007. And yet, I think each of these teams is its own story, and we just happened to have rolled snake eyes at the craps table three or four times in the last six years. That doesn't mean it's a trend, or that one of the dice now has nothing but "ones."
The other thing I'll say is that the storyline here is "The Ravens got hot in the playoffs." But going into this game, why would we think the Ravens had any more momentum than the 49ers? In the last two playoff games, each team had one big comeback win in a close game and one game where they dominated the other team in the second half. The only difference is that the weeks were reversed. This isn't a case of "the team with momentum in the playoffs now will win" because the team with momentum was both of them.
Ben Muth: The Wyatt Earp Effect would be an awesome name for a band.
Mike Kurtz: While I think your points are well taken, Aaron, it's worth mentioning that while the 49ers did have that big comeback, it means they had to wage a big comeback against the Falcons. I don't think there's much of a "momentum" argument. If such an argument is ever not silly.
Aaron Schatz: Is there that much more of a "momentum" argument for Baltimore playing very good against New England for 30 minutes after they needed a huge blown coverage to send the Denver game to overtime?
Mike Kurtz: Absolutely not.
Vince Verhei: Baltimore has the ball up 22 points in the third quarter and they're still throwing on every down. One, it hardly matters, but they can't run and they know it. Two, this game is going to take forever.
Danny Tuccitto: Totally legal for Corey Graham to grab Crabtree after getting beat by two yards. God, this is depressing.
Aaron Schatz: Baltimore got away with pass interference again, this time on defense. Graham definitely grabbed Crabtree's arm to slow him down a few feet before the deep second-down bomb came down. Crabtree almost caught it anyway, but I was surprised there was no flag there.
Mike Kurtz: Borderline call, and they've been letting them play.
Andy Benoit: Ravens playing Cover-3 concepts in the second half, Niners have route combinations on for beating it. It’s a look the Ravens went with in the first half, but it was less poignant because Niners weren’t spreading and throwing like that then.
Ben Muth: I have no idea what Bryant McKinnie was thinking on that Brooks sack.
Great block by Delanie Walker on Reed to spring the Gore counter touchdown.
Vince Verhei: Walker's block was more spectacular, but let's recognize Moss for sealing the cornerback off too. Point is, great blocking by San Francisco.
Aaron Schatz: Man, we did it again, we wrote them off too soon. I swore I would not do it all through halftime, and then after the return touchdown I did it.
I am disappointed in Jim Harbaugh for not going for two at either 28-12 or 18-19.
Mike Kurtz: It's way too early to start doing two-point conversion math.
Aaron Schatz: No it's not. The sooner you go for two, the sooner you know if you missed the two and thus have to change your strategy to make sure you get in another scoring drive. Chase Stuart has been writing about this a lot lately.
Andy Benoit: When Davis runs a pattern from an inside dual tight end spot along the line of scrimmage, he’s often the intended receiver.
Suggs has been a nonfactor as a pass-rusher.
Tom Gower: This blackout momentum narrativity stuff is driving me nuts.
Mike Kurtz: Agreed, Tom. It's ruining the second half for me.
Vince Verhei: I am cheering for Baltimore just so that won't be the story after the game.
Andy Benoit: Are the CBS broadcasters really playing that up?
Aaron Schatz: Yes, and it is REALLY being played up on Twitter.
Haloti Ngata is now doubtful for return. That's not good news for the Ravens.
Andy Benoit: Brooks has had a very good game, particularly in run defense (backside and playside). Bernard Pierce has a fantastic knack for turning the corner, and the ability to break tackles on the edges.
I guess they don't call hits out of bounds in the Super Bowl...
Vince Verhei: Man coverage against the 49ers leads to a Kaepernick rushing touchdown. You have to either blitz him to force the ball out of his hands or play zone so you can keep your eyes on him.
Ben Muth: Ravens run a heavy blitz to the offense's left and a tackle-end stunt to the left. DeAngelo Tyson, the defensive tackle, has to get outside and keep contain. You have to be aware that the blitz from the other side could force an early flush. If he's where he should be, he falls into an easy sack.
On the two-point play, Kaepernick changed the play when the Ravens showed all-out blitz. Then the Ravens were all over the snap count again and forced the bad pass to Moss.
Tom Gower: I am sitting here almost hyperventilating at Phil Simms acting like Jim Harbaugh might not go for two down 31-29 in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Schatz: I can't believe the 49ers are challenging the spot on the Boldin first down. I mean, it looks like he didn't get it from the video, but how on earth can you take the chance you won't get the challenge and you lose a timeout you might desperately need at the end of a close game -- just to get third-and-a-foot which the Ravens probably convert?
Rivers McCown: I think Harbaugh was just sick of the refs not spotting the ball well and it blew up into a frustration challenge.
Ben Muth: Yeah, haven't loved some of Jim Harbaugh's decisions this game.
Aaron Schatz: Boldin catches the back shoulder on third-and-a-foot. Terrible decision to check off to a pass, great catch by Boldin to make it work anyway.
Vince Verhei: I don't know if any receiver in the league has stronger hands than Boldin. Once he gets it, you're not knocking it out.
Ben Muth: I'd like to thank Todd Haley and Michael Bidwell for going scorched earth on Boldin and driving him from Arizona. It's not like Boldin would've made a difference the last few years with Ryan Lindley and Max Hall, but it's still frustrating.
Vince Verhei: REEAAAALLLLLLLY don't like Baltimore's decision to not call timeout before the two-minute warning on defense.
Aaron Schatz: I think the Ravens got away with holding by Jimmy Smith in the end zone there on fourth down. I understand the idea that both guys are fighting there, but Smith is grabbing Crabtree's jersey.
Ben Muth: Baltimore with the all-out blitz on fourth down, similar to the two-point conversion call. It's obvious they didn't think Kaepernick could make a quick read and throw to beat them in close quarters.
Mike Kurtz: You're never going to get anything like that called when the ball is four yards out of bounds.
Aaron Schatz: Well, the ball's not four yards out of bounds when the holding takes place!
I'll go with what K.C. Joyner is saying on Twitter. If both guys are holding each other, and you have penalties on both sides, call offsetting penalties on both sides and replay the fourth down without giving the 49ers a new set of downs.
Mike Kurtz: Haha, that is true. But remember what I said about secondary fouls ... you're supposed to sit back, replay the action in your head, and then decide whether you saw a penalty. There's also the question of whether the ball was in the air when the contact occurred, which would make catchability extremely relevant. There's a lot for the side judge to resolve in favor of a penalty.
Tom Gower: I've been on this on Twitter, but I hate sprint X option with a fiery passion. I don't hate sprint right option quite as much as I hate sprint left option with a right-handed quarterback (remember Matt Ryan's late first-half interception against the Packers a couple years ago?), but it compresses the field, demands a quick throw, doesn't give the quarterback a running lane, and generally necessitates having to make a throw into a tight window. Your best hope is something backside comes open, which depends on the quarterback having enough time. Sometimes it works, but not always.
I also hate timing patterns in do-or-die situations, like the speed out on third down or the fourth down out-and-up. Not as much as sprint X option, but enough.
Ben Muth: I hate people crapping on the 49ers playcalling. What do you want them to run? They got the quarterback out of the pocket once, called a quarterback counter that was negated because they couldn't get it off, and three passes where Kaepernick could run at anytime. I guess people want them to run the read-option ... but it worked twice all game. The last play wasn't just a fade. You don't get to see the entire route tree when the defense blitzes and plays cover-0.
Vince Verhei: San Fran has one timeout at the end of the game. At least one was burned earlier to avoid a delay of game, right before the failed fourth-down play. I don't remember the other, but regardless, sure would be nice to have those timeouts now, as Baltimore is about to punt with ten seconds left.
Tom Gower: The intentional safety included a fantastic Ed Dickson-on-Anthony Dixon hold in the end zone.
Danny Tuccitto: OK, now that they lost, I'm back. Lttle did we all know that the most important story of the week was Football Zebras' investigative report about the league rigging it so that Jerome Boger could ref this game. Can't remember the last time a crew had so much influence over a Super Bowl.
And, yes, I know this sounds borderline paranoid. However, at this moment, I feel like I'm allowed to vent.
Rivers McCown: That was a poorly officiated game. A great game, and fantastic fun to watch, but just a disaster from the Boger crew.
Mike Kurtz: OK, what exactly was disastrous? I'm getting really, really sick of hearing this after every game.
Danny Tuccitto: C'mon, Mike. When the game is on Game Rewind, I'd be happy to post screencaps of every joke of a non-call against the 49ers. There's Ayanbadejo's uncalled hold on Miller during Jones' kickoff return touchdown. There's the joke of a spot on Boldin's third-down catch near the end that ultimately got overturned. There's the holding at the end that will go down in Super Bowl lore. There's the hold on Graham when he was beat by two yards. There's Brown destroying Akers, and it's called running into the kicker instead of roughing. I mean, this was an abomination of officiating that eclipses every previous abomination I've almost certainly exaggerated in Audibles previously.
Ben Muth: For me, not ejecting Cary Williams was pretty bad. I know it wouldn't have made a difference, but the fact that they didn't call a hold on the intentional safety was also pretty embarrassing. Other than that, I thought it was below average, but not Seattle-Pittsburgh bad.
Tom Gower: As with every Jerome Boger game, we teetered on the edge of disaster the whole time, but didn't fall over the edge of the abyss. Bad for the league that somebody who does such a poor job of managing and controlling a game worked the highest-profile annual sporting event in the American landscape, especially when reports indicate he didn't deserve to do so. That said, I'm pretty much with Mike on the calls.
Mike Kurtz: Teetered on the edge of disaster? Really? It was a bit chippy. It could have been managed better. There were borderline calls, but there were borderline calls for and against both teams because there are borderline calls for and against every team in every game. I guarantee that outside of that last play, nobody on Earth will be discussing the officiating of this game tomorrow except people like us who are either extremely interested or extremely sensitive to the subject.
And Danny, your team just lost a really close game, I'm not going to impugn your god-given right to be angry about the officiating of the game. I was responding to Rivers.
Danny Tuccitto: And this is all coming from an acknowledgment that, putting the officiating aside, Baltimore was just as deserving of a winner as San Francisco tonight. Just wish, like every Super Bowl I've watched in my lifetime, I actually felt like the players had the final say.
Aaron Schatz: Not every Super Bowl. Look, I'm not happy that the Pats lost twice, and there were some questionable calls in those games, but I think only the most Pats homer of all Pats homers thinks that the Pats lost because of the officials. And I don't think a lot of the Cardinals fans think that about 2008, or Colts fans about 2009, or Steelers fans about 2010.
I think the officiating in this game had more questionable calls than any Super Bowl since the Steelers-Seahawks one. I don't think that it spoils Baltimore's win, but this wasn't just the same as every other Super Bowl.
Vince Verhei: I thought the non-holding call in the end zone would usually have been called, but it was consistent with the way the refs were calling the game. They were letting the players play more often than not.
I'm sure that if you went frame by frame through any given game you'd find a dozen missed calls. These were more prominent because it was the Super Bowl, but it never occurred to me that the reffing was any different than any other game.
Danny Tuccitto: I think Aaron's point is a more level-headed version of what I'm trying to say about the officiating. I'm aware I'm a major culprit when it comes to FO guys ripping officials in Audibles, but I've just never seen something like this in a Super Bowl, although the PIT-SEA game comes close, and that's a damn shame.
Aaron Schatz: "Consistent with the way the refs were calling the game" sounds about right. Almost all the calls we have been complaining about here were of the pass interference/illegal contact kind. It's true that by the time we got to that last drive, the officials basically had established that they were going to allow wide latitude on those penalties. The worst thing is not questionable penalties, but inconsistent questionable penalties.
Ben Muth: Yeah, they generally seemed to let guys play. A late hit on Flacco out of bounds wasn't called, and I feel like that's called in 90 percent of games.
Danny Tuccitto: "Wide latitude" is being charitable. When you let blockers bear hug and let coverage guys hold on for dear life after getting beat, that's just bad officiating. Why have rules at all with latitude that wide?
Rivers McCown: I feel like when you can point out like nine individual plays where someone had a legitimate beef, plus the Flacco out-of-bounds hit, a few really poor spots, and Williams not getting thrown out in a fight that only escalated because the officials weren't doing anything to keep the game under control, I have a right to say that it was a poorly officiated game. Sorry you don't feel the same, Mike. I'm not saying either team was put at a disadvantage by it (though Danny may not feel the same), just that I felt it was objectively poor.
Seattle-Pittsburgh was worse, for what that's worth.
Danny Tuccitto: See, to me, the hit on Flacco was a true borderline call that can go either way. He was hit in the chest outside the pocket at the very edge of the field. Some refs might call that, some might not. That's a far cry from the calls I listed, where it seemed like a scenario right out of an officiating exam.
Rob Weintraub: On the list of talking points from this game, the officiating is about 15th. Just not nearly the issue it's being made out to be. I would rather be Jerome Boger tomorrow than the head of Superdome Stadium Operations, that's for sure.
Andy Benoit: Super Bowl Sunday in New Orleans lived up to the hype. Besides the temporary power outage, the entire spectacle was a huge success. After the game, I went down to the main concourse and caught a snippet of Jim Harbaugh’s press conference. After about the third time he complained about the officiating, I left and wandered around the concourse. Steve Bisciotti came strolling through, smoking a cigar with some 20 members of his family trailing him.
After milling around with the Bisciotti family for a few minutes, I went into the Ravens locker room. You wouldn’t believe how subdued it was. There was no champagne or wild cheering. A lot of the team was still out on the field at that point, but even when Ray Lewis entered, things stayed pretty calm. Lewis did not cry or sermonize or doing anything particularly Lewisy. I stood beside his locker for a good 10 minutes. Several members of his family were there, including two of his younger sons who sat and watched their dad quietly. At one point, Ray handed one of them a shoe (he needed that shoe, he proclaimed to the trainer when it appeared for a moment that the shoe was lost). He told his son to read the insole of the shoe, which I saw contained a list of Lewis’s career accomplishments.
The calm of the locker room was shattered when Suggs entered. He thunderously pounded on a locker and announced that the champions were here. He hollered about getting naked with teammates (that’s technically what all the Ravens were doing at that point). He sang songs. He poked fun at Lewis. When Reed entered, the energy continued to pick up. A few minutes after Reed came in, the Ravens’ most famous fan, Michael Phelps, showed up and congratulated each of the players. It was strange seeing Phelps acting as a fan; aside from a few photographs and quick interviews, people treated him as just another guy in the locker room.
The closest I saw Flacco come to showing any real jubilation was when Phelps congratulated him, and it’s not like he went nuts. That’s not to say he wasn’t enjoying the moment, but Flacco is as understated as they come. And, now, he’s a Super Bowl MVP.
294 comments, Last at 13 Feb 2013, 4:16am by bengt