The Harbaugh brothers are both great coaches. Older brother John and his Ravens may have been the best-coached group because they are an older, more mature football team. Baltimore did not do a lot of things to beat themselves on Sunday. It didn't take long for San Francisco to make an error.
To open the game the '49ers ran a play that gained around 15 yards that got called back for lining up in an illegal formation. Baltimore had just two penalties in the game and one turnover while San Francisco had four penalties and two turnovers.
The game was close enough that one play could have changed the outcome. I thought one of the big ones came when Baltimore's Joe Flacco, the more experienced of the starting quarterbacks, made a key throw on third down and one to keep a drive alive to set up a late field goal for the winning team.
Another key play came after that when San Francisco, threatening to score at the Ravens' five-yard line, called a timeout from the sideline because of concern about a possible delay of game penalty. It looked to me like the quarterback was going to score on that play that was blown dead.
Calling the timeout in that situation was probably the right thing to do, but somebody made a mistake whether it was getting the play call in to the quarterback too late or the players taking too long to get properly lined up and get ball snapped.
Whether it is high school, college or pro football, in addition to avoiding mistakes, in close games matching teams playing at a high level, the kicking game can make a difference. That was the case in this Super Bowl with the Ravens returning the second half kickoff for a touchdown, helping build a lead the '49ers couldn't overcome.
San Francisco was the favorite and had about 100 yards more offense than Baltimore did, but at the same time those critical mistakes, and the inability to make the key play when the game was on the line at the end, were major factors. Baltimore had 100 yards more in kick returns than San Francisco did and they had one less turnover, which is 40 yards in field position.
My take is the best coached team won because Baltimore made the fewest mistakes. You couldn't say there was any difference from the teams effort-wise because both played hard from start to finish, and both of them are outstanding teams. San Francisco just made a couple more mistakes than Baltimore made and it was the difference in an exciting Super Bowl game.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.