The final offensive play for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII will be debated for years — did Jimmy Smith get away with a hold Michael Crabtree in the end zone.
That was the hot topic on the postgame shows after the Baltimore Ravens held on for a 34-31 victory.
While the Smith-Crabtree conversation can and will continue for decades, the key play also involved Richmond County’s own Dannell Ellerbe.
The Ravens dialed up a blitz on the fourth-and-goal from their 5 yard-line and hoped Colin Kaepernick would be forced into making a bad pass. The 49ers were ready for the pressure, but running back Frank Gore made the wrong choice and went to his right.
This decision gave Ellerbe, who was blitzing from the left side of San Francisco’s line, a free path to Kaepernick. Just as Ellerbe was about to level him, Kaepernick lofted a pass to the right corner of the end zone trying to find Crabtree for the go-ahead touchdown.
The seconds after the ball was released is what the media, coaches and fans have focused on after the game. Who knows what would have occurred if Gore would have picked up Ellerbe on the blitz and given Kaepernick another second to throw. Perhaps Crabtree would have broken free from Smith. Or maybe Vernon Davis, who had a team-high six catches, would have been able to make a catch against Bernard Pollard.
The quarterback hurry was just another huge play from Ellerbe on football’s biggest stage as he finished with a team-high nine tackles.
Perhaps Ellerbe’s biggest contribution in the Super Bowl was helping future Hall of Fame member Ray Lewis walk away a winner in his final game. There were several times in the game, when Lewis showed he had lost a step trying to defend against Davis, Gore and Kaepernick. Luckily for the Ravens, Ellerbe was there to come up with the stop.
When San Francisco return Ted Ginn Jr. was swallowed up by a handful of Baltimore defenders on the final play, Ellerbe sprinted onto the field in celebration. That could be Ellerbe’s final act as a member of the Ravens because the former Richmond Senior standout is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
It should be a no-brainer the Ravens will want to re-sign Ellerbe and plug him into the middle of their defense for years to come, but the team’s first priority will probably be inking quarterback Joe Flacco to a new deal. After that, only general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti will know how much cap space the team has and if Ellerbe will fit under it.
Ellerbe has made it known he would love to return to Baltimore, but he understands the NFL is a business and with his play over the last two months, he may have priced himself out of the Ravens checkbook.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.