Going the Rounds

Up to a certain point, Sunday’s Baltimore-San Francisco Super Bowl bore resemblances to the infamous (at least in the Northwest) Pittsburgh-Seattle confrontation in 2006.

In both games, the losing teams and their fans griped about the officiating. Both otherwise well-regarded losing coaches contributed to the defeats with questionable tactics. In the final analysis, what was probably the better team lost on both occasions.

The 2006 Super Bowl, however, didn’t include a 34-minute power outage, an excruciating attempt by the television crew to fill the resulting dead air and a commercial in which a supermodel and a nerdy actor loudly French kissed for 15 or 20 seconds. For that, the Steeler-Seahawk audience can be thankful.

Super Bowl XLVII, in fact, may be best remembered as the ultimate experience for Monday morning quarterbacks. So many elements of the game can be second-guessed, it would be impossible to touch all the bases in a single column.

Start with the obvious, the no-call on Colin Kaepernick’s fourth-down incomplete pass to Michael Crabtree that halted San Francisco’s final drive.

Unless the infraction is obvious, officials at any level are reluctant to make calls that would decide a championship. A defensive holding or pass interference flag that would have given San Francisco first down on the 1 or 2-yard line would have essentially handed the Super Bowl to the 49ers (although the Ravens might well have intentionally allowed the Niners to score in that situation in order to give Joe Flacco and company one last shot).

Let’s face it, had the situation been reversed and the Ravens had been the team driving for a winning touchdown, 49er fans would have been livid if a penalty had been called on such a play. The phrase, “Let the players decide the game,” would have become a mantra in the Bay Area.

It’s hard to dispute the logic in that philosophy, just as it’s hard to deny the argument that similar contact in the first quarter of a regular-season game would have drawn a flag.

Displaying commendable family loyalty, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called his brother, 49er boss Jim Harbaugh, the best coach in the National Football League.

Both Harbaughs clearly rank among the NFL’s elite. But like Seattle’s Mike Holmgren seven years earlier, Jim has had better tactical games than this Super Bowl.

The plays that the Ravens seemed powerless to defend in the second half were quarterback draws and planned scrambles by the agile Kaepernick. Yet, with the game on the line inside the 10-yard line, Jim Harbaugh neglected to utilize his quarterback’s running skills in a seemingly disorganized concluding sequence.

Despite the game-ending excitement, this Super Bowl probably will be remembered for the prolonged power outage that occurred early in the third quarter. That’s unfortunate, in a sense, because CBS’ improvised coverage during the outage that temporarily left game announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms out of commission was something to forget.

Simms’ shortcomings as an analyst were discussed at length in this space last week. Suffice it to say that his performance Sunday did nothing to change my opinion. Unwilling for most of the game to address any form of controversy, the former New York Giants quarterback had to be reminded by Nantz that the Ravens might take an intentional safety in the closing seconds — a possibility that Simms apparently hadn’t even considered.

The intentional safety, incidentally, cost me $100 on one of those Super Bowl numbers boards. I’m confident, however, that John Harbaugh will make it up to me somewhere down the line.

Yet Simms was pure gold in comparison to the CBS studio crew that was pressed into extended service during the outage. After advising the Ravens to adopt an ultra-conservative strategy with a 22-point lead but nearly a full half remaining (a tactic that almost cost the Atlanta Falcons the game against the Seahawks three weeks earlier), former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher suggested that the Niners replace Kaepernick with erstwhile starter Alex Smith.

Kaepernick had made only one bad pass in the first half and his big-play capability had been largely responsible for San Francisco making it to the Super Bowl.

Aside from that, Alex Smith is not the man you want on the field if you need to score in a hurry. Inserting him in that situation would be similar to the Seattle Mariners sending up light-hitting shortstop Brendan Ryan as a pinch-hitter while trailing by three runs with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

While Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino were pontificating about the game, studio host James Brown was demonstrating his journalistic chops by recycling reports, without elaboration, that the lights were still out in one portion of the stadium and crews were working to turn them back on at some point in the future. Mercifully, power was restored before the commentators could begin a discussion on gun-control legislation.

The analysts were correct, however, in assuming that the outage would shift the momentum to the 49ers. One wonders, however, if that aspect of the game has been overplayed.

Like the Seahawks, the Niners have consistently demonstrated they can wear down the opposition in the second half. That was the case in their come-from-behind win over Atlanta in the uninterrupted NFC championship game.

Aside from the first play following the resumption of action, the Ravens were unable to prevent the 49ers from scoring on any second-half possession until the controversial final drive. That can’t be solely attributed to momentum generated from the blackout.

Power outage or not, the Niners would have been a good bet to prevail had the game lasted another quarter.

A five-quarter Super Bowl? Don’t give NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell any ideas.

Rick Anderson is The Daily World sports editor. He can be reached at (360) 537-3924 or via email at randerson@thedailyworld.com