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February 4, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Three things we learned: Super Bowl edition

Jim Harbaugh

Hold on: How annoying am I?

What did we learn?

I. San Francisco doesn’t need to start over, just start better.
The 49ers kept daring themselves to come back from progressively bigger deficits over the course of this postseason. They fell behind 14-7 against Green Bay, 17-0 at Atlanta and then 28-6 in the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl. If you combine that trend with the way San Francisco wasted two second-half timeouts, which ultimately prevented San Francisco from having another possession, you have to question the 49ers’ preparedness. Not only that, but don’t forget the 49ers were penalized on their first play from scrimmage for an illegal formation. That’s totally understandable, though, as they only had two weeks to prepare for that play.

II. Momentum entering the playoffs means next to nothing.
The Ravens lost four of their final five regular-season games before a playoff run that included two consecutive road victories in games where they were more than a touchdown underdog. Then they won the Super Bowl without ever trailing. In the past nine seasons, there have been 15 teams that entered the playoffs with a winning streak of five regular-season games or more. None of those teams have won the Super Bowl, and in fact, seven of those 15 teams went out and lost their first playoff game. That one-and-done total includes Denver and Washington this season as those teams entered the playoffs with the longest active winning streaks in the league.

III. Man, Jim Harbaugh’s sideline histrionics are annoying.
Dude throws his playsheet. Dude throws up his arms. Dude complains. About everything. Brock Huard of 710 ESPN Seattle probably put it best: He’s the guy who plays pick-up basketball and calls every foul. Don’t get it twisted, he is an incredible coach. Not only has he shown the ability to steward a consistent winning team with 24 regular-season victories in two seasons, but his team’s playoff comebacks spoke to his ability to adjust and rally his team. But man is he a drama queen on the sideline. Pete Carroll’s sideline behavior rubs people wrong, too, but it’s usually his positive celebration where Harbaugh is an inflamed wound in a headset.

What are we still trying to figure out?

I. Do we really want the officials to decide the Super Bowl?
Because that’s the upshot of any complaint that Baltimore should have been called for defensive holding on the 49ers’ final fourth-down play. You want to reward the offense for that play, which was nothing short of a Jeremy Bates Special? In a moment with no margin for error, the 49ers dialed up a back corner fade to receiver Michael Crabtree. Did Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith hold Crabtree? Yup. Did Crabtree push off on Smith? Sure looked like it as Smith fell to the ground. Should a foul have been called? Not unless you want a game decided by officials. Did anyone outside of Atlanta think a foul should have been called against 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman as he defended Roddy White on a critical fourth-down play late in the NFC Championship Game? No. Well, then there shouldn’t have been a penalty called on the 49ers’ fourth-down play Sunday.

II. What exactly does being dubbed an elite quarterback mean?
The past two weeks have constituted one big discussion of whether Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. And now after an epic postseason in which he passed for 11 touchdowns without being picked off, he’s been labeled as such, joining a mythical club that includes guys like Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. What a bunch of hooey. Being dubbed an elite quarterback is something we do in hindsight, a convenient way for us to explain why a quarterback and his team won a championship. While it’s true Flacco has gotten better over his five years in the league, and he put together a truly incredible playoff run, it’s not like this success materialized overnight. This is a guy who has won a playoff game every single season since he entered the league in 2008. And it’s not like Baltimore was waffling on whether to apply the franchise tag before the Super Bowl. He wasn’t going anywhere. So save the whole overstatement that one game somehow validates Flacco’s ascendance.

III. Remember when Pete Carroll went for it on fourth down in first half at Atlanta?
That was a touchy topic after Seattle’s loss in its divisional playoff game, the coach eschewing a field-goal attempt to go for it on fourth-and-1. Well, John Harbaugh called for a fake field goal in the first half only to have his kicker tackled short of the line to gain for a turnover on downs. Now, there were differences: Baltimore was leading when it went for it, the Seahawks were trailing 13-0 when Carroll went for it. The Ravens defense held San Francisco to a three-and-out, the 49ers punted and Baltimore scored a touchdown on its next possession. The Falcons drove 88 yards in three plays and went up 20-0. But the decision-making process was very similar, and nobody’s is talking about Baltimore’s fake field-goal attempt Monday while everyone was scrutinizing Carroll’s fourth-down decision after the loss in Atlanta.


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