2013 Super Bowl
by Tony Medley
It matters not who won or lost;
But how you lined up for the game.
Angeles Times sportswriter Bob Oates became legendary in his coverage of
the Los Angeles Rams football theme by basing his game stories on the
"big plays" that decided the game. Oates usually picked around 5 key
plays that were decisive and fashioned his game story around those
In the modern
NFL it is now possible to base a game story on the stupidities that were
decisive in the outcome. Yesterday's Super Bowl between San Francisco
and Baltimore is a perfect example. Forget the fumble and interception
and poor play by the 49er defensive secondary, San Francisco lost the
game because of four stupidities.
On the first scrimmage play of the game the 49ers threw a pass and
gained 20 yards, putting them at midfield. But wait! There's a flag. Did
somebody jump offsides? No. Holding? No. Those physical errors are
expected and would be explainable. In one of the dumbest things ever to
happen in a Super Bowl, San Francisco lined up illegally.
Francisco coach Bill Walsh, who revolutionized the game with his West
Coast offense and won several super Bowls, would chart the first 10 or
15 plays his team would run in the game in order. They would practice
them and, generally, run them to perfection.
Francisco clearly planned to run this pass play as the first scrimmage
play of the game. They undoubtedly practiced it time and again, so that
they could run up to perfection. So in a multibillion dollar game, the
most important game any of the players ever played, they line up wrong?
Did they line up wrong every time they practiced it? Or did they
practice it correctly and then screw it up when all the marbles were on
the table? It's the responsibility of the quarterback, before he calls
for the ball to be snapped to ensure that the players are lined up
correctly. Often you see the quarterback telling the players to move
around to get in their proper position. In point of fact, though, all 11
players should know where each is supposed to be for any given play. But
they all went out and lined up, and somebody was wrong. At least two
people should've seen that; the quarterback: Colin Kaepernick, and the
player who was wrong. In addition the players next to the player who was
lined up in the wrong spot should know he's wrong.
This was a game
changer, a momentum killer at the outset. Instead of first and 10 at the
50, San Francisco was now first and 15 inside their own 20 and
depressed. The 49ers' good Karma from the successful pass was destroyed.
After three and out, Baltimore got the ball and scored a touchdown. Soon
it was 21-3, Baltimore was rolling, Flacco was hot, and San Francisco
With less than 2 minutes left in the half, Kaepernick drove the 49ers'
down inside Baltimore's 20 yard line Because of bad play calling, they
were facing a fourth and seven at about 25 seconds left. The 49ers'
unreliable field goal kicker, David Akers, missed a field goal but
Baltimore was flagged for running into the kicker, a 5 yard penalty.
This gave the 49ers a fourth and 2 on about the 15 with enough time left
to try to score a touchdown if they could make a first down. They had
timeouts and plenty of time to throw a couple of passes. Instead, coach
Jim Harbaugh opted for another field goal. This was a marvelous chance
reignite the good karma and possibly go in at halftime trailing only 21 to
10. Instead Harbaugh opted for the mundane, to go in trailing 21 to 6, a
three possession difference. He was given a chance to change the
momentum and disdained it.
After Baltimore ran the opening second-half kickoff back for another
touchdown, making the score 28-6, San Francisco had the ball at midfield
with around 7 minutes left in the third quarter. Kaepernick brought his
team to the line of scrimmage, surveyed the defense, apparently thought
he had called the wrong play for that defense, and immediately called a
timeout. When you're trailing by four scores in the second half,
timeouts are precious. Anybody who has ever watched football knows that.
But this guy, who gets called for delay of game more than any other
quarterback in the league, wastes a timeout. One timeout in a game like
this is much more precious than saving a five yard penalty on first down
at midfield with almost half the game left to play (and he called the
timeout with 8 seconds left on the clock, plenty of time to call an
audible). He should've either called to snap the ball and thrown the
ball away, or called an audible. Whatever he did, it was more important
at that time to consign that play and down to the trash heap without
losing any yards, and to keep the timeout.
After San Francisco had come back, with 2 minutes remaining and two
timeouts remaining, they had a third and goal on Baltimore's five,
trailing by 5 points. Now he sees the Baltimore defense and time is
ticking down. He in incapable of getting the play off before the clock
ran to zero, so the coach has to call a timeout at the last second,
meaning they only have one timeout left and two plays to get the ball
into the end zone. In a world where a team playing for the Super Bowl
isn't just monumentally ignorant, at this point San Francisco would have
all three of it timeouts remaining. If they did not score in this
situation, they would be able to stop the clock three times after
Baltimore took over and still have a chance to win again with another
possession. But because of Kaepernick's stupid timeout in the third
quarter and his inability to get a play called in this situation before
the clock ran out, they had squandered two of their three timeouts and
when they were unable to score, Baltimore got the ball with 1:45
remaining and could basically run out the clock because the 49ers could
only stop it once.
The big question
is, would Alex Smith, who was San Francisco's starting quarterback for
the first half of the season, have made the hebetudinous decisions
Kaepernick made? If not, it's likely that San Francisco would be Super
Bowl champions had Harbaugh allowed Smith to keep his job after he
recovered from his concussion instead of jumping on Kaepernick's
bandwagon. The question facing Harbaugh for the future is whether or not
Kaepernick's mental acuity is on a par with his exceptional physical
assets. Off the last two games, it doesn't look positive.
here last week, if Joe Flacco was on his game, and if Baltimore threw
the ball in the first half, unlike last week, the game would be a
barnburner and Baltimore had a great chance to win. He was, it was, and
February 4, 2013