Ravens' D bends, then stiffens in red zone

Ravens' D bends, then stiffens in red zone
February 4, 2013, 1:45 am
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Cary Williams after the Ravens Super Bowl win

The 49ers ventured into the Ravens’ red zone six times during the Super Bowl, but they came away with just two touchdowns. Now, that could be cause for a 49ers fan to shake his head over lost opportunities. But that’s also how the Ravens have played all season.

During the regular season, Baltimore ranked second in the NFL in lowest percentage of touchdowns allowed on opponents’ visits inside the 20, at .429. This minimized the damage as the Ravens defense no longer was its fearsome self and giving up lots of yards (No. 17 in the league).

In the first quarter after the Ravens’ first touchdown, the 49ers mounted a drive that carried them to the Baltimore 8. But the Ravens stuffed a Frank Gore run, defended an attempted pass to Michael Crabtree and then sacked Colin Kaepernick on third down, forcing San Francisco to settle for a field goal.

Another drive at the end of the first half reached the Ravens’ 9 with 25 seconds left before a running play and an attempted scramble by Kaepernick went nowhere and the 49ers kicked another field goal.

In the third quarter, the 49ers were trying to take advantage of Ray Rice’s fumble that gave them possession at the Ravens’ 24, but they stalled after three plays, thanks to a well-timed leap by cornerback Cary Williams to bat away a pass intended for Ted Ginn Jr. in the end zone. Again, the 49ers got three instead of six.

The biggest red-zone stand, of course, came near the game’s end, with the 49ers trying to take the lead. They had three plays from the 5, each one an attempted pass to Crabtree, each one incomplete. The topper was the fourth-down play that, depending on your view, featured 50-50 hand-fighting between Crabtree and cornerback Jimmy Smith or pass interference on Smith that wasn’t called.

Former NFL refereeing official Mike Pereira, now a commentator for Fox Sports, wrote this about the Crabtree-Smith play: “Both players were hand fighting, and when you look at this play in real time, there's not enough to call pass interference against either player. Smith had a quick grab and Crabtree had a quick push-off. … It's the type of play where a flag thrown against either team would have, in my mind, created more controversy than a decision not to throw the flag.”

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