San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (rear) is unable to catch a pass on fourth down against Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed.
The San Francisco 49ers were five yards away from completing a historic Super Bowl comeback.
A fluttering incompletion and controversial no-call later, the Baltimore Ravens essentially clinched victory and the Niners were left to wonder whether the refs had halted their chance for a sixth title in franchise history.
It was fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line with 1:50 remaining. Baltimore led 34-29. San Francisco's chances at a record-breaking comeback hinged on one play.
Colin Kaepernick lined up in the shotgun. Michael Crabtree was wide right, set in single-coverage against Ravens cornerback Jimmy Dykes. The ball snapped with the play clock nearing zero. Right as Kaepernick was catching the snap, safety Ed Reed feigned blitz, then started dropping back into coverage.
The Ravens brought pressure but Kaepernick wasn't concerned with it. He dropped two quick steps and threw up a fade to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. While the ball was in the midair, the wideout and corner tussled on the goal line. Crabtree slapped his left hand on Dykes' helmet, Dykes used his left hand to keep Crabtree at bay.
Dykes fell. Crabtree couldn't get to the pass, which floated seven yards deep in the end zone and landed three yards out of bands.
On the Ravens sideline, John Harbaugh raised one arm in triumph. On the other side of the field, his brother Jim tossed his hat and made an exaggerated holding sign with his arms.
"Yes, there's no question in my mind there was pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one," Jim Harbaugh said in reference to the second down play during that same series.
But no flag was came.
If social media reaction was any indication, it will go down as one of the most controversial late-game plays in Super Bowl history. 49ers fans insist Dykes should have been flagged for a five-yard holding call. Ravens fans likely agreed with CBS analyst Phil Simms: There was contact, but it was a good no call.
Officials could have flagged Dykes, but it would have been inconsistent with the loose play they had allowed all night. No one wants to see the NFL become a league where quarterbacks can throw up a prayer and hope their faith is rewarded with a holding call.
Kaepernick's pass was weak. The Niners' calls on the three plays before were even worse. After a two-yard gain on first down, the 49ers threw three consecutive passes, all to the short side of the field.
Super Bowl XLVII wasn't won and lost by one play in the end zone.