Michael Crabtree reaches for pass on final play of 49ers drive (Photo: USA Today)
NEW ORLEANS - Even Joe Flacco didn't think it was looking too good.
No way the San Francisco 49ers don't put the ball in the end zone on 1st-and-goal at the Ravens 7-yard-line after driving from their own 20 late in Super Bowl XLVII.
With Baltimore up 34-29, the Ravens quarterback expected his team might find itself down by two points with less than two minutes to play.
But he was still confident the Ravens would do what they needed to do.
"I was sitting on the bench and I'm kinda thinking they've got it going right now," Flacco said of the 49ers. "To be honest I'm thinking they're probably gonna put the ball in the end zone and we're gonna have to go down and kick a field goal."
But Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe stuffed running back LaMichael James at the 5 on first down, and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw incomplete to Michael Crabtree on three straight plays - including a fourth-down attempt that the Niners though should have drawn a penalty - to give the Ravens the ball and victory.
"We said in the huddle, 'Beat yo' man,' " said Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, "and if you look at that film, every DB beat up his man, and we weathered the storm. It was so crazy. It tells you what we're about."
The 49ers thought that the beating went too far: Players and coach Jim Harbaugh said he believes Jimmy Smith held Crabtree on the final incompletion.
"There's no question in my mind," Harbaugh said, "that there was a pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one."
Added cornerback Chris Culliver: "The referees see what they want to see."
But Pollard countered: "Jimmy made a heck of a play against a heck of a receiver."
By Robert Klemko