Super Bowl 2013: Decisions Jim Harbaugh Got Badly Wrong

T.J. Brennan@BrennansBiteCorrespondent IIFebruary 4, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers watches his team play in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

If Jim Harbaugh was offered another chance to coach Super Bowl XLVII, I’m certain he’d jump on the opportunity. 

The San Francisco 49ers made many a mental error in the Super Bowl, but most of them stem from their head coach. 

Although he did some things right, like rallying the team during the power outage, Harbaugh still made some tough decisions that cost the 49ers the game. 

Two stick out among the others. 


Bad Play-Calling

To say the 49ers' third-down plays were atrocious would be an understatement.  The team went 2-of-9 on third downs in the game, but that’s a product of questionable calls. 

Facing a 3rd-and-15 in shotgun formation, the 49ers ran a draw play for Frank Gore that only gained three yards.  I was stunned.  I couldn’t believe Harbaugh played it safe like that. 

On the next 49ers possession, after eating up nearly seven minutes of playing time, on a 3rd-and-8 from the Baltimore 8-yard line, quarterback Colin Kaepernick dropped back and was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Paul Kruger. 

Third downs aside, the play-calling on the final 49ers possession was just terrible. 

The 49ers marched the ball down the field and had momentum on their side.  Two big plays, a 40-yard pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree and a 33-yard run by Frank Gore, had the 49ers in prime position to score the go-ahead touchdown. 

What followed, though, was one of the worst red-zone series I’ve ever seen.  Three straight incompletions, all intended for Michael Crabtree, ended the 49ers' hopes of winning a title. 

From five yards out, is it not a good time to at least have Kaepernick try to punch it in? Guess not. 

Maybe Harbaugh thought a Kaepernick run was too predictable, which I could see as a reason to find other options.  However, throwing to Crabtree for three consecutive downs is inexcusable.  As ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown crew would say, “C’mon man!”


Putting trust into rookie running back LaMichael James

LaMichael James was a stud at Oregon, there’s no doubt about it. 

But in the NFL, James was an unproven rookie entering the playoffs.  During the regular season, James had only 27 carries.

So it makes perfect sense to give him 10 carries in the Super Bowl, which is just over a third of his total carries for the entire NFL season. 

On a 1st-and-10 at the Baltimore 24-yard line, James tried to turn the corner, just as he did many times in college.  On this occasion, though, he was wrapped up and the ball was poked out from his arm and recovered by the Ravens

The fumble led to a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta. 

It’s a good thing that Harbaugh is thinking about having a second option to Frank Gore, but to test him out in the Super Bowl is nonsensical. 


All play-by-play information, unless otherwise noted was obtained via