Five yards separated the 49ers from being Super Bowl champions, and it was five yards they would never get.
Many have criticized the play-calling by Jim Harbaugh on the final drive, down by five on a first-and-goal situation.
The first down play was a handoff to LaMichael James up the middle for two yards, followed by three consecutive incomplete passes to Michael Crabtree that essentially handed the game to the Ravens.
Why didn’t they give the ball to Frank Gore, or have Kaepernick run it in himself? Keep in mind that they were just five yards short, and either of those plays had a good chance of working.
But it turns out Harbaugh may have nothing to do with the play-calling down the stretch.
The San Francisco Chronicle reveals a conversation that Kaepernick had with Crabtree on the sidelines earlier in the fourth quarter when the Niners were trailing by 31-29 after a failed two-point attempt:
Kaepernick: “I should have just gave you a shot right there. That’s my fault. That’s my fault all the way.”
Crabtree: “They’re scared of me, bro. That’s my territory. When we get in that red zone? They can’t control me, bro. It’s too fast. I’m too big.”
Kaepernick: “I got you.”
Crabtree: “You know what I’m saying? Throw that thing up. I’m going to make an effort.”
Kaepernick: “I owe you one. I owe you one.”
With that, Kaepernick and Crabtree slapped hands and the quarterback walked away.
After the game, Kaepernick told reporters that he called an audible for a fade to Crabtree on fourth-and-goal. On the play, Crabtree appeared to be held by Ravens’ safety Jimmy Smith, but the penalty was never called and the pass fell incomplete.
But that isn’t the point. The point is that Kaepernick felt like he had to make amends for failing to throw to Crabtree on the two-point conversion.
That’s fine, but unfortunately, a potential game-winning drive in the Super Bowl is not the right time to make up for things. Instead of dialing up Crabtree’s number on three straight plays, Kaepernick should have looked for the best option to score.