Greg Cosell spoke about the Super Bowl on KNBR Thursday morning. Here’s what he said.
Q: What did you think of the 49ers’ final four offensive plays?
COSELL: Here’s a perfect case where because the plays failed, everybody thinks that they’re bad play calls, therefore something was horribly wrong.
The first play was perfectly understandable because Gore had just run 33 yards and he was not in the next play. So they handed to James from the Pistol, something they’d been very successful with all second half.
The second play, and only Colin Kaepernick could answer this, he rolled out and Michael Crabtree was wide open. If he throws him the ball, it might have been a touchdown. I can’t tell you why Kaepernick didn’t throw him the ball. That was the design of the play. Michael Crabtree was wide open. The third play, I’m convinced that Kaepernick was throwing the ball to Crabtree out of the huddle because (Delanie Walker) was wide open on that side of the field, part of the reading progression.
Here’s the issue we’ve all faced – and I love Colin Kaepernick and I think he’ll be a great player – but because he’s already ascended in people’s minds to this hall of fame level, he’s at the point where he does no wrong. In fact, he had brain freezes on two of those final three plays, either one of which likely would have been a touchdown if he had executed the play properly, but no one will talk about that except me because I’m telling you this from watching the film, so therefore because the plays didn’t work they must have been bad play calls.
And the final play of the game was just Cover Zero blitz, which was the same blitz concept the Ravens did on the two-point conversion, which clearly forced Kaepernick to get rid of it before he wanted to. The same thing happened on the final play. I thought it was going to be a back-shoulder fade, that’s just my sense from watching Crabtree’s route. Kaepernick had to hurry himself because of Ellerbe getting in clean, so the defense won on that play. But the second and third down plays were plays in which Kaepernick simply didn’t execute well-designed plays, either one of which could have been a touchdown.
Q: Shouldn’t the 49ers’ coaches tried to eliminate the young quarterback’s brain freeze by handing the ball off to No.21?
COSELL: What happened was the first half, the Ravens’ D-line dominated. The 49ers couldn’t run the football. They couldn’t get Ngata blocked. They couldn’t get Ellerbe blocked. Gore in the first half only had 11 for 29.
In the second half, they didn’t run the ball real well either until the fourth quarter. Gore had 104 yards, but he had 54 of those yards on two runs. They were both Full House Pistol runs – one was 21 yards and the other was 33 yards – but if you’re talking about sustaining a run game throughout the game, that did not happen. The 49ers did not do that.
Q: Didn’t people think the 49ers’ run game would win that matchup?
COSELL: Yup, and quite frankly they didn’t. Ngata went out late in the third quarter. He was very, very effective in this game through three quarters. They couldn’t get him blocked in the run game consistently. That was a big loss for the Ravens and positive for the Niners.
Q: How did the Ravens jump out to an early lead?
COSELL: I think the secondary had some issues. One thing the Ravens did, which I thought was very smart, was their pass game was a lot more sustaining, a lot shorter throws. They threw the ball in the flat quite a bit, and I think the 49ers never really handled that well. The Ravens were able to make first downs, sustain drives, or make nice gains on first down with throws into the flat.
And then there were some break downs. The long touchdown at the end of the first half to Jacoby Jones, that kind of play can never happen. And it did in a Super Bowl. What they did on that was they singled up Culliver on Jones, they doubled Boldin in the slot and Smith on the other side, and Culliver just played the in cut and was totally out of position with no help over the top. He got beat. It wasn’t a great throw, but he was beat so badly that Jones was still able to catch it get up with room. It was just one of those plays, but a play like that can’t happen in the Super Bowl.
Q: Did Culliver have as bad of a game as it seemed?
COSELL: When you give up a play like that that becomes a touchdown, obviously that play is magnified. I didn’t come away from that game saying, “Oh my God, Culliver was awful,” there was just a couple of plays. There was a pass interference call on a third down.
But there were some plays that the Ravens made – that third and inches play after the challenge by Harbaugh where Flacco audibled. Rogers was all over Boldin. They executed the play at a really high level against unbelievable coverage. That was arguably as big a play in the game as any.
You can’t say they got out-coached. Plays like that help you win games.
Q: Do you ever evaluate officials or have opinions on calls?
COSELL: No. I don’t, and if you’re asking about the final play of the game, my immediate response was that was holding just like NaVorro Bowman held Roddy White two weeks ago. I don’t get into that.
Q: Wasn’t Bowman within the five yards though?
COSELL: You still can’t hold him when the ball is in the air. I don’t get into that stuff. It goes both ways all the time. That stuff to me doesn’t mean anything.
Q: I’m not sure that Bowman held when the ball was in the air.
COSELL: You’re not even allowed to hold within the five yards. You’re allowed to push and shove and be physical, but you can’t hold a guy.
Q: I though Bowman was just being physical, but anyway.
COSELL: I’m sure Falcons fans are saying the same thing 49ers fans are saying now.
Q: Why was the 49ers’ offense so much better after the blackout?
COSELL: I thought they had some success in the first half. Don’t forget, James fumbled after a long drive. I’m not sure we’d be having this conversation if he didn’t fumble.
I told you they would go after Ray Lewis, and they did. If the 49ers had come back to win the game, Ray Lewis arguably could have been the goat in the game. They went after him and had great, great success.
I don’t know if the 49ers’ offense was ever truly shut down. I think as the game went on, Greg Roman got a real good feel for where he could be successful, and then in the second half they were not stopped.
It was a great game. I think with Kaepernick, who’s going to be a really fine player, there’s a lot of positives here. I think the same discussions were had as last year after they lost, although I think there’s probably a more optimistic feeling now because of Kaepernick.