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Nothing could have really prepared 49ers fans for the week after Super Bowl XLVII. It is unnecessary to go into what I did or did not do to cope with the 31-34 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, because nothing really worked. I remember trying to read about the Giants and the looming preseason, watching a little basketball here and there but neither was a lasting diversion from the fact that the 49ers had lost not only the big game but their awesome undefeated record in the Super Bowl. As it became more clear and visceral that Market Street would be parade-free for at least a few more months, radio personalities battled over what happened, why the 49ers fell short and what can be done to ensure that we never, EVER go through this again. I don’t think I can ever watch any highlights or recaps from the Super Bowl, but with baseball season starting and the roar of NFL Media now far quieter than it was in February, it is time I give my thoughts on why the game played out they way it did.
I should first say that if I HAD to pick a team for the 49ers to lose the Super Bowl to, it would be the Baltimore Ravens. I like the Ravens a lot; they have made being a tough, defensively-focused team into a formula for consistent contention. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs are great players and their leadership shaped the team into what it was. Except for that sack of stale Wonderbread they call a quarterback, the Ravens are a great team and a tiny part of me is begrudgingly happy for them.
When I really think about it (and I really don’t like to), the overwhelming disparity between the 49ers and the Ravens was one of experience. An angle of this game which was not given as much coverage as Ray Lewis’ rants and Colin Kaepernick’s “-insert meaningless dramatic metaphor for speed here-” was the fact that the Ravens had years of playoff experience and they were more than capable of stepping up when it counted. It was clear from the moment that Jacoby Jones caught the game-tying touchdown pass in Denver that something special was going on in Baltimore; whether it was Lewis’ impending retirement or they got hot at the right moment, the Ravens were coming out to play.
The 49ers, against both the Falcons and the Ravens looked very much like a team having an identity crisis. The offense found its footing in both games, but for the first half of each it looked as if the 49ers were being outfoxed by teams that had a lot more experience and a successful formula for winning. It is not a reach to say that Flacco and the Ravens offense, who had more postseason starts than Kaepernick had TOTAL starts was better equipped to step up and force the 49ers to play on their terms. In my opinion, this is the primary reason why the 49ers lost, and the primary reason why we should be extremely hopeful looking to the future of the 49ers franchise.
While a lot of the media in the offseason has picked apart the 49er’s shortcomings, they are still the two time NFC West Champions, and are going to take a lot more steps forward in the next few years. At its worst, the 2012 49ers season was one of transition; it has been too quickly forgotten that the 49ers endured several key injuries late in the season as well as a total offensive shift after the emergence of Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback. Despite this, the team almost went all the way. The postseason experience both the players and coaching staff gained will be invaluable in the future. While we may be bombarded by promises of another power usurping the 49ers in the NFC West, I will not be struggling to remain optimistic.
P.S. I am getting pretty tired of the protracted discussion around the blown pass interference call on Michael Crabtree. Was it pass interference? Yes. Was it called? No. Is there spotty officiating in almost every Super Bowl? Yes. The Ravens still won, and fixating on the five yards and what could have been isn’t good for anybody.
P.P.S. The whole “five yards” debacle is an interesting one. Who knows what would have happened had they run the ball? The Ravens had one of the best red-zone defenses in the league, and were clearly prepared to fight to the last. It all reminds me of another Bay Area what if: the 1962 World Series.
© Charles Schultz