By Gary Estwick, For The Baltimore Sun
12:15 AM EST, February 4, 2013
Randy Moss returned to the NFL for games like this, not performances like Sunday night's.
Five days after Moss proclaimed himself the best wide receiver of all time, he spent most of Super Bowl XLVII as an on-field spectator for the San Francisco 49ers, unable to make the plays necessary for the first championship of his 14-year career.
Moss left the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after a 34-31 loss to the Ravens with just two catches for 41 yards. His biggest impact came on a 32-yard gain early in the fourth quarter — a great catch, but not enough for one of self-proclaimed greatness.
Colin Kaepernick targeted Moss five times, including a two-point conversion attempt on the left side of the field with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left. After scoring on a run of 15 yards, he could not connect with Moss on the conversion, which would have tied the game at 31.
On fourth-and-5, with less than two minutes remaining, Kaepernick never looked to Moss on the left side of the defense, instead targeting teammate Michael Crabtree to the right.
The pass sailed over Crabtree. Moss watched from across the field.
Moss earned national acclaim with the Minnesota Vikings as one of the best NFL receivers of the late 1990s and early 2000s before playing for the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. In 2010, he moved from the Patriots back to Minnesota and then to Tennessee, where his career appeared to be over. And it was, until he returned to the NFL this season, finishing the regular season with 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
Losing his second Super Bowl won't lessen the disappointment.
Instead of making plays, the San Francisco 49ers offense appeared resigned to making mistakes Sunday night.
From rookie running back LaMichael James' fumble to Kaepernick's first interception of the postseason, San Francisco's offense looked nothing like the one that dominated opponents this season with a read-option attack that was as potent as it was unique.
James' fumble at the Ravens 25-yard line early in the second quarter came as he tried to get back to the line of scrimmage.
James was tackled on the play by outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who forced the ball loose, and cornerback Corey Graham. Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones recovered the fumble.
The 49ers' next possession ended with Kaepernick being intercepted by Ed Reed near midfield on the first play of the drive.
San Francisco running back Frank Gore, like Kaepernick, rebounded from a lackluster first half in which he had 29 yards on 11 carries. The offense rode his rushes as San Francisco scored 17 straight points in the third quarter. Gore finished with 19 carries for 110 yards, but the rally fell short soon after his 33-yard run with 2:47 left gave San Francisco possession at the Baltimore 7.
From there, James rushed for 2 yards and Kaepernick threw three straight incompetitions.
Davis breaks out
San Francisco's Vernon Davis might have started Sunday's game with a mental blunder, but the talented tight end soon made up for it. He proved to be what he has been all season: San Francisco's best receiving target, finishing with six catches for 104 yards.
On the 49ers' first play from scrimmage, Davis (Maryland) was called for an illegal formation, negating his 20-yard catch. After three plays, San Francisco punted.
On the 49ers' next possession, though, Davis caught a 24-yard pass from Kaepernick and held on after absorbing a hit from the Ravens' Reed. The play set up San Francisco's first score, a 36-yard field goal from David Akers.
Davis made even more of an impact in the second quarter. He caught consecutive passes, including a 29-yard reception in which he ran past Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who failed to keep up with the younger, faster playmaker.
Crabtree makes amends
Crabtree dropped a long pass from Kaepernick with 8 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter, a play that could have given San Francisco's struggling offense its biggest play of the still-young game.
Instead, Crabtree, who had a half-step on Graham, was unable to convert the play inside the Baltimore 20.
He did later catch a momentum-changing 31-yard touchdown pass in the third, beginning San Francisco's rally.
Ravens take advantage
Early in the first quarter, linebacker Ahmad Brooks' offside penalty on third down gave quarterback Joe Flacco a second chance to convert on the Ravens' opening possession. Flacco took advantage, finding wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a 13-yard touchdown. San Francisco was penalized five times for 33 yards.
Big play for Walker
Delanie Walker's 28-yard sliding catch with 1:12 left before halftime in the first half set up Akers' second field goal of the first half. Walker caught three passes for 48 yards.
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