The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens just completed an epic Super Bowl game. They had everything from big plays to an almost bigger comeback, and even a 33-minute power outage to really make it memorable. The brothers Harbaugh, who coached against each other, were a huge story leading up to the game, and I think the out-coaching that happened on the field was a big story as well. In my opinion, Jim Harbaugh was out-dueled by his brother and missed giving his team an extra chance to win the game.
The Good: Jim Harbaugh’s challenge on the spot of the ball forced Flacco to make an incredible throw and Boldin to make an even better catch on 3rd and inches. He took a real chance but clearly saw something and went with his gut.
Before the half, the 49ers had two timeouts left with 2nd down and 2 from the red zone, with 17 seconds left. I absolutely loved the run call to try to pick up the first (they came up short) and then use their second time out to have three cracks at the end zone with 12 seconds left. The bummer was they came up short, had to use the timeout, and then only got one play off until it was 4th down. They took their final timeout with 3 seconds left to kick the FG. I thought they handled it excellently.
The Bad: This series was an extremely tight window that I felt was mismanaged:
|1st and 10 at BAL 40||(Shotgun) F.Gore left end pushed ob at BLT 7 for 33 yards (E.Reed).|
|1st and 7 at BAL 7||(Shotgun) L.James right guard to BLT 5 for 2 yards (D.Ellerbe; D.Tyson).|
|2nd and 5 at BAL 5||(Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to M.Crabtree (C.Graham).|
|Timeout #2 by SF at 01:55.|
|3rd and 5 at BAL 5||C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to M.Crabtree (J.Smith).|
|4th and 5 at BAL 5||(Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass incomplete short right to M.Crabtree.|
If I remember correctly, once Gore broke the run, he ended up out of bounds on the 7-yard line with around 2:39 left. They tried a run with James that got them down to the 5-yard line with 2:35, and they then let the clock tick all the way down to the two-minute warning, which I didn’t mind, because they still had two timeouts left. At this point, they draw up a roll-out play, which is unsuccessful. Here is where it gets sketchy; they call a run with Kaepernick, but with a delay of game coming, Jim Harbaugh is forced to take a timeout that he needs desperately. The play never develops, and now they must go back to passing to preserve the clock in case they don’t score. They end up not converting and touch the ball next with just 4 seconds left. The timeout they burned would have saved them 40 seconds and made it more like 44, and the Ravens wouldn’t have been able to use the safety. As a fan who watched my Giants give the Patriots the ball back with extra time last year after questionable management, I know it is something that can haunt you. As Madden players, we must manage our own clock, and thankfully we can play hundreds of games to really understand it. My goal here is not to second guess the play calls of whether they should have run, rolled out, etc., but just what they might have done differently if given another chance. Jim was obviously calling plays he thought would work, so I won’t waste my time there. I saw the Ravens blow coverage on a roll-out play to Welker in the red zone 2 weeks ago, so there is always that angle, but I am strictly talking clock. In Madden, we can just load up another opponent, but in the NFL we can only sit and think about next year!
I felt like the 49ers had a chance to get one more possession out of the game but ultimately went with the “Score or Die” mentality, not because they wanted to but because of an error that forced them to take the timeout. The “What if they scored too early argument?” I don’t believe in, because Baltimore had all three timeouts and could have gotten the ball back with 1:30+ left by using all three timeouts, and with a successful two-point conversion, a FG would have only tied the game.
Possible Second Guesses: After the miss by Akers, which was negated by a running into the kicker penalty, there may have been a chance to go for it. It became a 4th and 2, and they took the points to make it 28-23 instead.
Send a little more heat on the safety play to force the punter out of bounds quicker. If he goes out with 7 seconds or so, maybe Ginn can get out of bounds around the 40ish to give a Hail Mary chance.
I thought John Harbaugh was very aggressive with his play-calling, including a great fake FG (although the kicker needed to run 18 yards since he needed 9 and was 9 yards deep, but he really did have a pretty clear lane). I believe John would have started taking timeouts if the 49ers had run on their last series during the goal line stand anyway.
What did you guys think about the clock management in Super Bowl XLVII? Would you have handled it differently in Madden NFL 13?