Congratulations to the San Francisco 49ers for making it all the way to the Super Bowl and congratulations to them for putting up a good fight in a losing effort to the Baltimore Ravens. Having handed out congratulations, I would like to point out a few things.

Only three Bay Area sports writers predicted a Ravens win — me, Grant Cohn, Ray Ratto. I’m not sure what that means but it means something.

I once heard John Madden say on KCBS — “There is no such thing as a good loss.” Madden knows more than I do, but I want to emphasize the Niners played valiantly — really valiantly — but they lost.

All season long, I have expressed my dissatisfaction with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, whom the Niners should fire forthwith. The loss to the Ravens had much to do with his miserable play calling in the first half. That seems to be his pattern. He gets all confused in the first half and mounts a resurgence in the second half. The Niners need an offensive coordinator who has his wits about him the entire game.

Especially at the end. The Niners had the ball at the Ravens’ 7 with plenty of time to score a TD and win the Super Bowl. Roman called a run by LaMichael James. What a joke. He had Frank Gore who was going absolutely nuts and he called a run for the runt. Two yards.

Let me pause a moment and say it’s unclear Roman called that play. It may be Geep Chryst who calls plays in the red zone. Who knows? I’ll say it was Roman. Let the Niners work it out among themselves. Roman, or whoever, then called three passes in a row, all incomplete. Niners lose.

Hey, Greg or Geep or whoever you are, just run Gore. Run him and you win.

Roman or whoever lost the game.

Colin Kaepernick played great after not playing so great. And I believe he will be a special quarterback. But he and the Niners broke new ground. He threw a Super-Bowl pick and neither Joe nor Steve ever did. Jim Harbaugh broke new ground. Neither Bill nor George lost a Super Bowl. Jim did.

And there’s one other thing and this is personal. And it’s about sports journalists, me being one of them. For the past two weeks, all I read was how the Niners were going to win, how Kaepernick is the new Joe Montana, how Jim Harbaugh is the new Bill Walsh. I object for professional reasons. No one should have written that fan stuff, that blatant rooting stuff, until the two teams played the game. 

Kaepernick, who has started 10 games, is not Joe Montana until he wins a Super Bowl. And Jim Harbaugh certainly is not Bill Walsh until he wins three.

Kaepernick can never be Joe Montana because Joe never lost a Super Bowl. And Harbaugh can never be Walsh for the same reason.

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  1. Johnc

    At the end of the game the play calling in the red zone was atrocious as you pointed out ..
    Whoever called those plays should be canned.
    Other than that the secondary sucked. They flounder when the ball is in the air mesmerized as the Raven recievers look at the ball and snatch it away from them with ease. Well, I predicted this would happen.. It happens everytime they play vs. good quarterbacks like Rodgers , Brady, Brees.. Niners need to get better in the secondary next year.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:20 pm

  2. PhD

    Kaep needed to just run it in on the 2nd down play. It would have likely been a touchdown. Once he feels more in control and has more experience he just takes a play like that on his own and runs it in.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:23 pm

  3. K.G.

    You were right Lowell, by gosh….

    February 3rd, 2013 9:28 pm

  4. chewie

    too soon….. I’m still thinking about those refs….

    February 3rd, 2013 9:33 pm

  5. Rap49er

    Horrible use of their time outs. If they had three after the fourth down miss, they would still have a good chance to win. Never call time out in the third quarter, ever.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:33 pm

  6. chewie

    The entire city was calling for the pistol formation on those last couple of plays

    February 3rd, 2013 9:34 pm

  7. CohnZohn

    chewie, forget the refs. All teams live with calls, good or bad. You win or you lose. No excuses.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:40 pm

  8. NeverWrong

    It was there to win, but three Flaccco floaters were gazed at by the 49ers secondary when they were anyone’s ball in the first half. And does LaMichael James get instructions that he has to take kickoffs into the middle no matter what? One veer to the sidelines at his speed and he’d be out of reach. Seems like the 9ers were too tightly assigned in the first half. It’s the truism that while it’s in the air it’s anyone’s ball–the d-backs could have broken out of their zones for 3 possible picks on those soft touch lobs in the first half. Instead, each was completed while our nearest DB slowed down to get a good view.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:44 pm

  9. Jim Bancroft

    Great prediction Lowell. You thought with your head and not your heart. Well-deserved win by the Ravens, and blaming the refs will not cut it here.

    The 49ers fought back, but the hole they dug themselves was too much. Very exciting game. Like everyone else I’m mystified by the play calls at the end– the Ravens’ old, tired defensive front was getting shoved around at the end. If you run Gore three times at some point he’ll get it in?

    Not terribly good passing by Kaepernick that last set of downs either, but credit to the Ravens’ defensive coordinator for calling the right setups at that critical time.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:47 pm

  10. bigandbold

    Well Lowell, maybe it means that you, Ray and Grant are that much smarter than everybody else, or at the very least enjoy pointing it out…

    February 3rd, 2013 9:50 pm

  11. CohnZohn

    bigandbold, Only I pointed it out. Grant and Ray are innocent.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:54 pm

  12. Bob In Portland

    You’re right about Roman, Lowell. Considering the circumstances, they should have spread it out and run from that formation.

    Unless you put money on it, though, I don’t think you get anything for predicting the Ravens winning.

    February 3rd, 2013 9:58 pm

  13. dharte

    Nonsense…Ray Ratto? Please. This game was a crapshoot and the “experts” were whistling in the dark for the last two weeks.

    The fact is that a loss like today’s is just too complicated to break down into “blame,” but one thing is certain–Culliver needs to go, now. He is a bad cornerback and a fool, which is obviously not good enough at this level for this town. Watching him run his mouth, game after game, and then make so many key mistakes when it mattered most–appalling. The defense was so hard to watch all game long. (What has happened to Aldon Smith?)

    They really should have won. And they were outcoached, no question. Two years in a row now they have lost because of horrible special teams mistakes. And for those of you who pinned the loss last year on Alex Smith? You’re idiots, my friends, and you saw the same movie, with a new twist, this year. Harbaugh will deny that and soft sell the problem. But what does it matter at this point.


    February 3rd, 2013 10:17 pm

  14. CohnZohn

    dharte, for someone who’s against blaming you sure blame Culliver and the coaches, although I agree with you.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:19 pm

  15. Marc

    Cohn, why do u do this? Us 49er fans are hurt, why rub salt in the wound? I don’t normally post here but my god I couldn’t help it. U really do enjoy playing the villain don’t u? Sheesh, congrats on your supebowl pick man. Must be nice to write about a team u don’t like then see them lose in the big one. You’re the man!

    February 3rd, 2013 10:26 pm

  16. Steve the cat rescuer

    Many good points made and plenty of blame to go around, but certainly not on the Refs. An illegal formation on the first play of the game, negating a long gain – INEXCUSABLE. End of game red zone play calling – the Ravens were gassed – pound the rock. The DBs were horrible, particularly Culliver. The special team was asleep on that 108 yard return; did anyone even touch Jones? But my goat ball goes to Aldon The Invisible Man Smith. That guy stood around and watched all night – I can’t recall one tackle. I was screaming to replace him with Larry Grant. I don’t know if it would have made a difference but he couldn’t have had less of an impact. They’ll probably cite his shoulder injury as the reason for his ineffectiveness – I respectfully disagree. Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks were playing hurt and made some great plays; I noticed J. Smith was double teamed much of the night despite his injury. Aldon Smith: baaaaaaaa.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:28 pm

  17. CohnZohn

    Marc, You seem very emotional. I understand. Your team lost. I don’t root one way or another. I write what I understand to be the facts.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:30 pm

  18. Wendell Harper

    Tonight’s game and the performance of the defense is no aberration. Remember the Giants last year in the championship game, making third and forever, time after time. The same with Seattle, New England, The Falcons and now, the Ravens, this season.

    The forty-niners must do what great teams do. Pay the money to get great free agents. Stop being so cheap. The GM drafted all those players last year, and most of them never played a down. No big name free agents, either. I feel good about their chances next year, but not as long as the coaches look like keystone cops against the teams I just mentioned. Time to make key adjustments. Wide Receiver, running back, cornerback.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:50 pm

  19. Tim Jones

    “No one should have written that fan stuff, that blatant rooting stuff, until the two teams played the game. ”

    How is making a prediction “blatant rooting stuff”? Most neutral observers thought that the 49ers had the better team, but the Ravens were a hotter team.

    “Kaepernick can never be Joe Montana because Joe never lost a Super Bowl. And Harbaugh can never be Walsh for the same reason.”

    I hope Kapernick and Harbaugh are never compared to Joe and Bill. All four are uniquely different and have their own strengths and weaknesses. Comparing men is sports journalistic drivel.

    “Roman or whoever lost the game.”

    No, the players lost the game. They are the one’s out on the field determining the outcome of the game. They didn’t execute the plays well enough. Example: James’ fumble; Culliver’s missed tackle on the kickoff return for a touchdown; and how many missed tackles for sacks by our front four. Even if the 49ers had run Gore four times up the middle, whose to say we would have pounded it in?

    February 3rd, 2013 10:50 pm

  20. CohnZohn

    Tim Jones, Greg Roman is deficient.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:52 pm

  21. Hoferfan67


    As good as both Kaep (CK) and Jim Harbaugh have been for the 49ers, I never got caught up in the JH is BW or CK is JM hype. Regarding the playcalling, I agree with you but remember, CK has a running play and a passing play for each down and he determines (based on the defense) which to run. It may be an issue of CK learning to read defenses better as well.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:57 pm

  22. CohnZohn

    Hoferfan67, Thank you. You make very good points. I enjoy reading your comments on Grant’s blog. Best to you.

    February 3rd, 2013 10:58 pm

  23. Matt in Newark

    “It’s such a fine line between stupid and . . . clever . . .”
    David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnels, “This Is Spinal Tap”

    I’m not saying under that pressure I would make good decisions, but for Roman to call four throws instead of running the ball on 1st and goal with plenty of time left is . . . well . . .

    Ugh . . .

    February 3rd, 2013 11:42 pm

  24. Jimmy

    Lowell, you’re dead on with these comments. Roman was the Niners large deficiency in this game. And the hype for this game blinded most people in the bay, writers included.

    February 3rd, 2013 11:53 pm

  25. Matt in Newark

    My bad on the last series. It wasn’t four throws but was one run (with LaMichael James) and three throws to Crabtree.

    Still, why not give the ball to Frank Gore?!?

    February 4th, 2013 12:01 am

  26. Albert

    I keep seeing headlines about the Niners rally falling short. Why don’t we say what really happened. Niners struggle starting games. You can’t dig yourself a hole every time and expect to catapult yourself out of it in the second half.

    February 4th, 2013 12:04 am

  27. Mike W

    Lowell – good points on the lousy final series with the exception of the first down run with James. Frank was gassed after his long run and asked out of the game so you can’t blame Roman for that one. Also, as others have pointed out it seems Kaep had run options on at least a couple of those broken plays. Tough loss regardless

    February 4th, 2013 6:02 am

  28. Paul

    Aloha Lowell,

    Lets be clear, this game belongs to Jim Harbaugh. He has the head set on, he is the the arbiter on play calling .

    You are correct , he is no Bill Walsh!

    February 4th, 2013 8:27 am

  29. Dan

    I was very frustrated with the play calls in the red zone on that drive. I thought the 49ers should have gone to the pistol and called a zone read play that would have sprung Gore or Kaepernick free for the end zone. Even if they hadn’t scored on 2nd and goal, it would have wound the clock down and given the Ravens less time to come back. I just don’t understand why they called three passes there. They should have stuck with what got them to the Super Bowl in the first place: running the ball. Maybe Harbaugh is complaining about the referees’ non-call on 4th down to cover for the bad strategy. But you can’t base on your strategy on hoping the referees will give you a call, especially in that situation. You need to make the play calls that give your team the best chance to win.

    February 4th, 2013 8:55 am

  30. Dennis

    “And there’s one other thing and this is personal. And it’s about sports journalists, me being one of them. For the past two weeks, all I read was how the Niners were going to win, how Kaepernick is the new Joe Montana, how Jim Harbaugh is the new Bill Walsh. I object for professional reasons. No one should have written that fan stuff, that blatant rooting stuff, until the two teams played the game.”

    Why is what they wrote any less valid than anything you or anyone else wrote? It is all opinions, no?

    February 4th, 2013 9:56 am

  31. CohnZohn

    Dennis, Are you in your argumentative mode today? Writing that Kaepernick and Harbaugh are in the Montana and Walsh class was premature and, in hindsight, wrong. It would have been better to make those comparisons until after the actual game.

    February 4th, 2013 10:16 am

  32. Dennis

    No, I am not arguing with you. I am only asking why someone’s opinion should be less valid than someone else s’ opinion. You may not agree with it, which it sounds like you don’t, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to it. I found it rather silly coming from you. I would have thought that you respected the rights of others to express their opinions much as you do yourself. At least that is what you have taught me over the years.

    Now I am going to argue with you. I think it is absolutely fair to start comparing Kaepernick to Montana. Montana is the measuring stick. I am not saying he is better, but I think he has a chance to be. I say let the comparison begin.

    February 4th, 2013 11:18 am

  33. Luis Ramos

    Great insight Lowell! all i kept hearing all week was how much better the 49ers were then the Ravens. Kap played like a rookie and made big mistakes. The Ravens were well prepared to deal with the 49ers. Ravens O-line handled the 49ers Defensive line!!

    February 4th, 2013 12:03 pm

  34. dharte

    Just wrote a comment about why Culliver was so appalling in the context of what happened…and it got swept away.

    We’ll let it go. But the one point I’d leave you with is that Special Teams have cost the 49ers both last year’s NFC title game (which they were winning in the 4th quarter–with Alex Smith), and yesterday’s game. How do you give up that return coming out of halftime and needing a quick stop?

    I doubt Bill Walsh would have put up with such a repeat performance.

    Brutal to watch. As someone who goes back, as a kid, to Preston Riley at Kezar, I feel especially bad for the kids like my 12-year-old who were heartbroken after that last series of plays. You’re on the 5-yard-line and Frank Gore never touches the ball? Kaepernick never tries his luck on a sweep or a scramble?


    But then Preston Riley always fumbles that kick, through forty years of memory!

    Time to think about something else. It’s been fun, Lowell. Take care of yourself.

    February 4th, 2013 12:13 pm

  35. CohnZohn

    dharte, If you mean I trashed one of your comments, I didn’t. At least I don’t remember doing it. Please resubmit it.

    February 4th, 2013 1:15 pm

  36. Robby

    Lowell, I don’t know about firing Roman, but he does seem like he thinks he’s way smarter than the other team and has no respect for them. It almost feels arrogant. The last sequence was horrendous and heartbreaking. We all felt that with the momentum, the time left and Kaepernick and Gore on fire that the 49ers would score and win. Then the red zone play calling. But let’s also face facts: the defense lost the game. Kap-302 pass, 62 run, Gore, Davis, Crabtree over 100 yds. Culliver was atrocious, Justin Smith and Aldon were absent, the safeties were too concerned with laying the wood rather than disciplined coverage. Harbaugh was saying last season that Brad Seely was head coaching material. What happened this season?

    February 4th, 2013 2:39 pm

  37. Mark M

    I’m not sure how damning it really is to suggest Kaep and Harbaugh are not Montana and Walsh. Do they have to be? Is there not plenty of room underneath that lofty standard to win a super bowl and be a great quarterback?

    I learned one really cool lesson from Lowell this season on how history is not static. There is so much to be learned about this season and this Super Bowl based upon what happens in the future. The silly hype about comparing current players/coaches to legends is just that…..HYPE/HOPES. Not sure why Lowell takes it so seriously as to suggest Harbaugh has to live up to what is basically an impossible standard.

    February 4th, 2013 2:45 pm

  38. Wendell Harper

    The forty-niners need to learn how to coach during the game. What we saw in the Super Bowl is not out of the ordinary. It happens all too often (Minnesota, Giants, Rams, Seahawks, Ravens)Jim Harbaugh places the burden for making it happen on Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree. They don’t call plays, they read and react, usually much too late.

    As for getting better players, it will do no good to get them if you have no idea how to use them. Remember, all but two of their draft picks and their free agent in Brandon Jacobs, were deactivated. Learn to coach during the games, fellas.

    February 4th, 2013 6:56 pm

  39. Alex

    I never understand articles like this. Losing is painful enough. If you’re a 49ers fan, aren’t you pouring salt in your own wounds?

    February 4th, 2013 8:27 pm

  40. CohnZohn

    Alex, Why would you assume that I, or any other sports columnist, is a fan of any team?

    February 4th, 2013 8:36 pm

  41. Alex

    Do you really feel that is an unfair assumption, at the very least in the general? Regardless, if you aren’t a 49ers fan, I stand corrected.

    February 4th, 2013 9:28 pm

  42. Non-Bounty Contact

    I told my wife before the game if Gore gets 115 yards the 49ers win and Gore is MVP. I was looking like a genius with Gore having accumulated 110 yards on 19 carries with the ball on the five. I’m thinking Gore is the best option and sentimental favorite to get the win. The 49ers can run Gore any direction. Harbaugh built this team not to run, but to “pound” and they were pounding the Ravens backward. Go jumbo to supplement a million dollar offensive line that has done a great job for Gore in the 4th quarter and with the Ravens best defensive linemen out injured you clearly tip the scales for the extra push, the extra inch or the extra thrust of the ball over the goal line. I am feeling good about myself and my wife tells me I am insufferable. However, unlike the Bill Walsh coached teams I never feel in my gut this current 49ers team can win a game when they take the field. I don’t have the confidence in Harbaugh that I had in Walsh. Well we saw what happened and the outcome of the game. I go from genius to an average dude in less than a minute while it is my wife who is now gone insufferable. I believe my wife in Harbaugh’s biggest fan. Thanks James see you next year!

    February 5th, 2013 8:19 am

  43. chris

    dharte…the Preston Riley fumble was at Candlestick in 1972…….same day as the Immaculate Reception beat my Raiders…….that was a tough memorable day of playoff football for me as a 10 year old kid just beginning to watch the NFL.

    and most likely your comment got swept away by the Cohn Zone page refreshing which it does from time to time.

    February 5th, 2013 8:40 am

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