The moment San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick's final fourth-down pass hit the ground, the beginning of the debate could be heard on whether there should have been a penalty.
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was all over 49ers cornerback Michael Crabtree on a fade route. The Super Bowl hung in the balance, as the Ravens led 34-29 with less than two minutes left. The 49ers had just two timeouts left and as it turned out, they wouldn't get the ball back in time to run another offensive play.
A call would have given the 49ers a fresh set of downs and a great chance to take a lead with less than two minutes left in the Super Bowl. No call would practically end San Francisco's chances. With the world watching, it's an enormous pressure situation for the officials too.
The officials kept the flags in their pockets. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh vehemently protested to no avail. A season that started with a full-blown controversy over replacement refs ended with fans wondering if the normal officials whiffed on a huge decision.
Watching the replays, CBS color commentator Phil Simms waffled back and forth on whether he thought Smith made a great play or it was a little more. It was a judgment call that could have gone either way, and it's rare that a defensive back gets the benefit of the doubt on such a play anymore.
Smith made initial contact within five yards, which was legal. Harbaugh emphatically signaled he thought it should have been a holding call, and Smith did get his left arm around enough to pin Crabtree's right arm very briefly. It was a very close call, and the officials didn't make it.
Whether it was a penalty or not doesn't really matter anymore. The Ravens won the Super Bowl. That won't stop people from debating if they thought Smith should have been flagged.
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