Trailing by five points with just 1:50 left on the clock, the 49ers faced a fourth-and-goal from the Baltimore 5-yard line. Needing a touchdown, Crabtree attempted to catch Colin Kaepernick's desperation pass in the end zone only to watch it fall to the ground a few feet beyond his reach.
Crabtree and his coach Jim Harbaugh furiously insisted Crabtree was impeded by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith as he went up to grab the ball, but the officials ruled no infringement and the game was effectively over.
"It was a missed call," a shell-shocked Crabtree told Yahoo! Sports as he sat in the team locker room minutes after the end of the contest, which the Ravens won, 34-31.
"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."
Video replays suggested strong contact from Smith and when asked if he felt a penalty would be called, Crabtree nodded.
Crabtree had battled hard all game, collecting 109 yards on five catches, including a touchdown in the third quarter. His rapport with Kaepernick was part of the reason Harbaugh called his number for the play that decided the season.
Crabtree's two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers helped the 49ers begin their playoff run in impressive fashion and his game benefitted from the introduction of Kaepernick to the lineup midway through the season. But, when it mattered the most, Crabtree did not get the call he so craved.
"When we had the chance late I thought we were going to get there," Crabtree said. "It was that close."
The mood was understandably opposite in the Ravens' locker room. Smith's contribution to the critical play had not gone unnoticed. In the span of five minutes, he was approached by no fewer than 12 teammates for a celebratory hug.
"Who made the play on fourth-and-5," a voice rang out in the far corner. "It was No. 22 Jimmy Smith. My brother."
Smith refused to claim credit.
"It is a team effort and it don't matter who makes what play," he told Yahoo! Sports. "I thought it was a good play and it was a play we had to make. That is what we do. Do your job."
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