NEW ORLEANS -- Down by five and essentially to their last shot in the closing seconds, the San Francisco 49ers called for Colin Kaepernick to throw a 4th-and-goal fade to Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick's pass sailed high over the head of Crabtree, landing harmlessly out of bounds as the Ravens and their fans began celebrating.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, however, had a much different reaction.
Harbaugh, known for his animated and occasionally petulant discussions with officials, immediately began screaming for a holding flag on Baltimore's Jimmy Smith. Crabtree and Smith were locked in some hand-fighting as Kaepernick released the pass, with Smith tumbling to the ground as Crabtree broke loose.
But by that point, Kaepernick's pass had sailed out of Crabtree's reach.
The 49ers also asked for a pass-interference call on 2nd-and-goal, two plays before Kaepernick's final incompletion. On that play, Kaepernick rolled right and tried to squeeze a pass in to Crabtree -- Corey Graham jumped the route and batted the ball away, on a bang-bang play.
"Yes, there's no question in my mind that there was a pass interference," Harbaugh said, "and then a hold on Crabtree on that last one."
[si_launchNFLPopup video='b2c0023f1c0846e0bc57aa693b58a682']Here's the last 49ers' offensive play[/si_launchNFLPopup]. Should a flag have flown for defensive holding?
"The guy was holding Crabtree," 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. "The officials called it as if it was a regular play and didn't throw the flag. I think if anybody has seen it on film, they would say it's pass interference."
Replays may have supported the 49ers' case -- Smith did appear to briefly wrap around Crabtree -- but the officials deemed the play legal.
Harbaugh's anger carried over to Baltimore's safety in the closing seconds, too. There were 12 seconds left on the clock when Ravens punter Sam Koch took a snap in his own end zone on fourth down. Rather than punt the ball away, Koch ran around in the end zone to kill time.
At least two Ravens got away with multiple holding penalties on the play -- there were no flags. Of course, a holding penalty there would have resulted in the same outcome: a safety, a free kick and just four seconds left.
"Still haven't gotten an explanation on the safety," Harbaugh said. "It was obviously the intent of the Ravens to tackle and hold, but not one holding flag came out. It's a good scheme on their part to hold as many people as they can, and you teach them to just tackle when you're taking a safety like that, but not one holding penalty was called.