The 49ers were five yards away from completing an epic comeback and winning the Super Bowl.
They had 2nd and goal at the two-minute warning. But the Ravens stopped them three-straight times, including an incomplete pass on 4th down when wide receiver Michael Crabtree may or may not have been held.
Here’s the play. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith definitely gets up in Crabtree’s jersey. But Crabtree doesn’t really fight through the contact and the pass from Colin Kaepernick was essentially uncatchable:
Photo: CBS via Bleacher Report
It’s probably a holding penalty. But given the magnitude of the situation, it’s understandable that the referees didn’t bail out a terrible play by San Francisco on some contact that almost certainly didn’t change the outcome of the play.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh felt otherwise. After the game he said, “I really want to handle this with class, (but) there is no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and a hold on (Michael) Crabtree on the last one.”
That mirrored his slightly more exaggerated reaction during the game (via Deadspin):
Crabtree joined his coach in saying it was a botched call. Here’s what he told Yahoo!:
“I thought it was a missed call. … [The referee] missed two or three in the game but that was it right there, the Super Bowl was right there.
“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t know, man. What do you think? I thought it was holding.”
Again, the 49ers do have a legitimate complaint. Based on the letter of the law, the referees could have called holding on Jimmy Smith for grabbing Crabtree’s jersey while the ball was in the air.
But it wasn’t blatant, Kaepernick threw a terrible pass, and Crabtree didn’t do enough to fight through the contact and force the ref to make a call.
Here’s a screenshot of the arm grab:
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