A closer look at 49ers' final four plays

A closer look at 49ers' final four plays
February 5, 2013, 8:30 am
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Michael Crabtree: "I mean, it felt like there was a lot of contact. I don't even want to say this, but if the ball had been a little lower, giving me a chance to make a play, I'm sure they would've called it." (USA TODAY IMAGES)

It's the scenario that any team in the league would accept. The 49ers had a first-and-goal situation at the opponent's 7-yard line for the Super Bowl.

What followed was a sequence of plays that will long be remembered and scrutinized, as the 49ers failed on three final Colin Kaepernick pass attempts along the right side for receiver Michael Crabtree.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and coach Jim Harbaugh, who delivers the plays to Kaepernick via the radio device in the quarterback's helmet, were immediately second-guessed for not attempting a run play, either for Kaepernick or Frank Gore.

In fact, Kaepernick's number was clearly called on a designed run, but with the play clock expiring, Harbaugh called a timeout. On fourth down, Kaepernick made the decision to change the original play because he made the correct read of a six-man blitz.

The 49ers, who rallied from a 22-point deficit, found themselves in position to take their first lead of the game when Gore carried around left end for 33 yards. He was pushed out of bounds at the 7-yard line. Rookie LaMichael James replaced an exhausted Gore for the next play.

[RELATED: Matt & Mindi -- 49ers' final sequence will be questioned forever]

2:39 remaining, first and goal, Baltimore 7
The 49ers were in the pistol formation with James lined up directly behind Kaepernick. Tight end Delanie Walker and fullback Bruce Miller were lined up in the backfield even with Kaepernick. Walker was on the right, Miller on the left.

Kaepernick took the snap on a read option and handed to the 195-pound James up the middle. Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata was out of the game at this point, but James was stopped for a 2-yard gain.

Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, coming off the right side of the 49ers' formation, was the spy on Kaepernick. He went straight for the quarterback and hit him right, knocking Kaepernick backward, after the handoff.

[RELATED: Controversial no-calls, play calls leave 49ers five yards short]

2:00 remaining, second and goal, Baltimore 5
Gore was back in the game, lined up to the left of Kaepernick, who was in the shotgun. Randy Moss was lined up wide left with Walker, Vernon Davis and Crabtree bunched to the right.

Kaepernick rolled right as Crabtree went to the pylon in the end zone. Kaepernick probably held the ball too long before throwing to Crabtree. Cornerback Corey Graham hit Crabtree, breaking up the pass as it arrived. Crabtree initially complained that Graham got there early, and Harbaugh said afterward he believed it was pass interference. It looked too close to call.

1:55 remaining, 49ers timeout
Gore was lined up to the right of Kaepernick. Walker originally lined up wide left, then Kaepernick motioned him tight to the line of scrimmage. Moss and Crabtree were lined up to the right.

With five seconds remaining on the play clock, Kaepernick made another adjustment. As the play clock expired, Harbaugh called a timeout from the sideline to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.

But the snap happened anyway, and it was clearly going to be a designed Kaepernick run to the left side. Gore came across the formation to be a lead blocker, and right guard Alex Boone pulled.

With Kaepernick's running ability, there's a very strong chance he would've been able to score on the play. The 49ers were one second late in snapping the ball even though they got to the line of scrimmage with 13 seconds left on the play clock.

[RELATED: Yahoo! Sports -- No flag, but no foul?]

1:55 remaining, third and goal, Baltimore 5
Kaepernick was under center with Gore lined up 5 yard behind him, and Crabtree was in the backfield to the left of Gore. Walker is in the right slot and Moss is also on the right side. Vernon Davis is lined up wide left.

Crabtree goes in motion to the left, and the ball is snapped as Ravens free safety Ed Reed is trying to communicate to the other Ravens defensive backs. The play is well-designed, as it basically has three receivers (Walker, Crabtree and Moss) covered by two defensive backs.

The Ravens come with a five-man rush.Walker is open at the goal line, but Kaepernick locks onto Crabtree. Graham's coverage is good, and Ravens' third corner Jimmy Smith comes in and makes a helmet-to-chin hit on Crabtree to break up the pass. Even if Crabtree had made the catch, it would've gained just 2 yards.

This is the play, I'm sure, Kaepernick wants back. Walker was open, and Kaepernick could've easily delivered the pass before safety Bernard Pollard could get there.

[LIVE STREAM: Jim Harbaugh season ending press conference -- Tuesday at 11am]

1:50 remaining, fourth and goal, Baltimore 5
The 49ers are back in the pistol with Gore lined up slight to the right behind Kaepernick. Moss is wide left. Walker is in the left slot. Davis is the tight end on the right side, and Crabtree is wide right.

Kaepernick changed the play at the line of scrimmage because he knew the Ravens were coming with a blitz. He did not say what the original play was, but he said it was something designed for the Ravens playing "coverage."

Gore looked right for blitz pickup and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe came through the left side to hit Kaepernick as he threw toward the back pylon. Crabtree and Smith became tangled. Crabtree initiated contact with Smith, who then grabbed Crabtree as Kaepernick threw the pass over his head.

Afterward, Crabtree had this to say:

"I mean, it felt like there was a lot of contact. I don't even want to say this, but if the ball had been a little lower, giving me a chance to make a play, I'm sure they would've called it (the penalty)."

On the other side of the formation, there was a far-greater amount of contact going on between Walker and Graham at the line of scrimmage and into the end zone.

Again, no flags were thrown, and the Ravens held on over the final 1 minute, 46 seconds to win Super Bowl XLVII with a 34-31 victory over the 49ers.

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On Tuesday, Harbaugh will have his final formal press conference of the season. It begins at 11 a.m. I'm sure he will be asked a lot about that sequence. In the immediate aftermath, when questioned why Gore did not touch the ball, Harbaugh answered, "We had other plays called." We'll see if Harbaugh shares a little more insight.

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