The 49ers were on the seven yard line, with more than two minutes remaining. What happened after that was a two yard run by LaMichael James, followed by three incomplete passes intended for Michael Crabtree. There was also a timeout before third down because the play clock was running low.
What didn't happen? The 49ers did not give the ball to Frank Gore after he gained 33 yards to put them on the seven. Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers had other plays in mind.
On second and third down, the Ravens were playing for the pass and the pass rushing was minimal. The pass on second down intended for Crabtree was off target. The following pass to was incomplete when Jimmy Smith knocked the ball out after Crabtree initially caught it.
Gore needed to carry the ball on at least one of those two downs. He was not injured or fatigued throughout that final possession and there is no excuses to not use him. The 49ers still had a timeout and more than two minutes left in the game, so time wasn't a factor.
It is puzzling how a running back who had a six-yard touchdown run previously in the game was not given one carry on the last four plays. The 49ers abandoned their biggest strength when they were only seven yards away from taking the lead. Gore finished the game with 110 rushing yards while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He was responsible for 40 yards on two carries on that last possession.
Another reason to run the ball was because defensive lineman Haloti Ngata was out for the remainder of the game. With one of the best linemen for the Ravens missing, the 49ers could've exploited this weakness by giving the ball to Gore.
On fourth down, the Ravens called a jail-break blitz and forced Kaepernick to release the ball earlier than he wanted. The ball sailed to the back of the end zone with Crabtree being covered by Smith. While there is debate on the incomplete pass if there should have been a flag or not, the ball was uncatchable, therefore giving no clear cut reason to call a pass interference. Kaepernick said he called an audible on the final play after what he saw in the defense.
Joe Staley admitted he wanted to at least run the ball one more time after James carried the ball for two yards. He said the team couldn't finish the job to end the game.
"Five yards short," said Staley. "All the work we did in the offseason, the whole entire season, everything came down to five yards, and we weren't able to get it done."
Hindsight is always 20/20 and the 49ers can only look back at what could have been. Greg Roman didn't give the ball to the 49ers' all-time leading rusher on that last possession and felt it was better to pass the ball. They were one of the best running teams in the league, yet they chose to put it in the hands of a group of wide receivers who were already short handed before the game. The 49ers will have all offseason to think about it.