04 February 2013

Super Bowl Hangover

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It wasn't a pretty game for my horse in the race -- the San Francisco 49ers. I backed them when the line bottomed out at -3.5 and took a shot at -165 on the moneyline. I also bet the UNDER fairly early when the line was first released and got 49 before it headed south to 47.5 and bounced back up.

After crunching the numbers, it came down to efficiency in scoring drives. Each team would probably put together roughly six scoring drives, or three per half. But which ones would get stuffed? Which ones would get held to a FGs? Which ones would result in a touchdown? Which ones would benefit from turnovers and advantageous field position? Which would be 80+ yards drives that ate up the clock? Which ones would be quick-strike shock and awe bombs? The outcome of one scoring drives could settle the game, which is why it was imperative for both defenses to limit opposing offenses to FGs instead of touchdowns.

I had a vision of Baltimore's rookie Justin Tucker kicking four field goals because on paper the Niners were set up better defensively to hold Baltimore to FGs on four potential scoring drives. That never happened. Baltimore's offense figured out how to score multiple times against San Francisco.

In the Super Bowl, Baltimore's offense generated 3 TDs, Tucker kicked 2 FGs, and the special teams accounted for a kickoff return for a TD. Baltimore scored all three offensive TDs in the first half, while the Niners' forced Baltimore to kick FGs during two 4Q drives. For San Francisco, they failed to convert any touchdowns in the first half, instead settling on a pair of FGs from Akers. Their offense meshed much better in the second half scoring three TDs including 14 points in under 4 minutes at one point. Baltimore's defense limited the Niners to two FGs in the first half and kept them out of the endzone twice in the second half when it mattered the most... 1) forcing a FG in the 3Q after the Niners seized momentum post-blackout, and 2) the game-saving stop when the Niners failed to score on first and goal from the 7.

One of the earliest segment of Baltimore's game plan was to score on their first possession because the Niners' are a slow-starting team and their defense gets more stingy as the game progresses. Baltimore won the toss and elected to defer. The Niners offense didn't help out the D to start the game. On their initial possession, a quick penalty backed them up (I got the first of many "Rfs rigging the game for Baltimore" texts five seconds into the game). Kaepernick failed to convert a 3rd and 15. After the punt, Baltimore had prime field possession at their own 49. Giving Joey Flacco a short field on his first possession? Yeah, that wasn't good. Seven plays and one penalty later, Boldin caught the game's first touchdown. On the previous play, Baltimore threw an incomplete pass on third and 9, but the Niners' Brooks got flagged for offsides. Instead of a potential field goal, Baltimore had another shot... which they converted. Baltimore 7, San Francisco 0.

San Francisco struck back with their own scoring drive. Kaepernick's pass to Vernon Davis helped get them a chunk of yards. With 1st an goal from the 8, the Niners' failed to punch it in the end zone. On first down, Gore got stuffed for no gain. On second down, Keapernick threw an in completion. On third down, Kaepernick go sacked. Bad play calling? Or poor execution? That would end up becoming the Achilles heel for the Niners' the entire game... inefficient offense in the Red Zone. The trouble Daivd Akers trotted on the field and drilled a FG. No sweat. Nienrs' fans exhaled. Akers was a huge question mark, but he delivered. Baltimore 7, San Francisco 3.

On the next possession, the Niners D got their shit together. They sacked Flacco to end the 1Q. They forced a punt. Niners got the ball back and started to march right back into Baltimore territory. Kapernick connected to Vernon Davis twice. The Niners' running game was looking superior while LaMichael James and Frank Gore rushed the ball in consecutive plays for 16 total yards. At that point, everyone in Niners' nation was thinking... "Let's not put the pressure on Akers to kick another FG, let's get the 7 and take the lead."

A touchdown seemed inevitable, and that's when LaMike had LaFumble. On first and 10 from the 24, Lamichael James coughed up the ball. Baltimore recovered. Instead of San Francisco taking a 10-7 lead (or at worst, trimming the deficit to 7-6), Baltimore had the ball and San Francisco's worst nightmare unfolded... a fumble that leads to a Baltimore TD. Only 10 plays and 1 face mask penalty later, Flacco tossed his second TD pass of the game. Baltimore 14, San Francisco 3.

That was the first major turning point of the game. At the minimum the fumble was a 10-point swing and at the max it was a 14-point swing. Instead of being ahead, the Niners fell farther behind. The chase began. With only 7 minutes left in the 2Q, they needed to rally the troops for a scoring drive before the half ended.

Then more disaster struck. A Kaeprnick mistake led to an INT on a ball thrown to Randy Moss. Baltimore got the ball back and was about to put the first nail in the Niners' coffin, but the Niners' defense stepped up and kept Baltimore out of the end zone. Tucker was about to kick a FG (4th and 9 from the 18) but John Harbaugh rolled the dice with a fake FG. Tucker took off running and the kicker failed to covert the first down. The Niners got the ball back on downs, but they were pinned deep. The fake was a ballsy call, but the Harbaugh brothers are both aggressive play callers. A potential score of 21-3 or 17-3 never happened and Baltimore failed to put the Niners into deeper shit.

The Niners got the ball back, but failed to get points on the board. They went four and out, then punted. With 2:07 to go, Baltimore went for the jugular and capitalized on a mistake in the Niners' secondary. On a third and 10, Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones on a 56-yard TD. Baltimore 21, San Francisco 3.

San Francisco got the ball back with 1:45 and did not waste any time getting deep into Baltimore territory. Yet once again, they couldn't covert a TD. Akers kicked another FG. Baltimore 21, San Francisco 6.

Three TDs from Baltimore... at half time. They had a chance at four TDs, but San Francisco thwarted one on a busted fake FG. The Niners' porous defense let Baltimore into the end zone on three scoring drives. Instead of limiting Baltimore to one or more FGs, they gave up 21 points. The defense got the Niners in a hole. It would be up to them to shut down Baltimore while Kaepernick worked his magic.

Beyonce. The halftime show. She still has moves. My girlfriend insisted that there would be a Destiny's Child reunion and she was correct. Supposedly Beyonce's mega-show blew the power grid in rehearsals, but halftime show went off without any problems, nipple slips, and very little occult/Illuminati imagery (last year's show with Madonna whipped the conspiracy forums into a frenzy).

A lot of people might have missed the first play of the second half. Jones returned the kickoff for a 108-yd TD. He was a blur. If you blinked, you missed it. Baltimore 28, San Francisco 6.

It didn't look good for San Francisco. The future was grim. I hoped it would stay a low-scoring game so I could cash an UNDER ticket and get some money back. That's when Phil Sims went mute. It was like a gift from the broadcasting gods. The sound went out, but the lights went out in the Superdome. That's when things got weird.

Twitter blew up with jokes and conspiracy theories. I heard everything from Niners' owner paying mob-run unions guys to pull the switch, to the suits at CBS causing a blackout to create a bit of drama in a blow out. I saw a lot of non-gambling friends accusing Vegas casinos for pulling the plug (which was absurd, they'd win either way and actually wanted Baltimore to win because they took in more money on the Niners). Twitterverse pointed fingers at few hysterical culprits from Alex Smith to Danny Ocean. The tin-foil freaks on conspiracy forums were going apeshit. They tossed out the usual suspects... Alex Jones, Mossad, FEMA, HAARP, the jewish cabal running Hollywood, the Pope and the Opus Dei, and even the Illuminati

I made my obligatory joke on Twitter about Beyonce's hair drier causing the power surge. If you're married or live with your girlfriend you know that it takes one hair dryer to plunge your entire household into darkness. I really think Beyonce caused the blackout indirectly when her halftime show soaked up so much juice that it fried Nola's antiquated grid. I'm often the most conspiratorial person in the room, but in this instance, I chalked up the power outage to a crumbling infrastructure and the overwhelming demand of remote juice to pull off a spectacle like thee Super Bowl. Like, I can only imagine what the power outlet situation could be in the press box. I've covered televised poker tournaments in exotic destinations and you'd be surprised to realize how an entire production is often held together by duct tape and an unreliable power source.

I love the idea of CBS suits running out back to pull the plug so they could air an extra 30 minutes of commercials and bilk a few million more from companies. Then again why did Mercedes put branding on the roof? Did Mercedes-CBS pull off the blackout as a publicity stunt? It doesn't seem that absurd when you think that suits care about money more than anything else. How else can you describe the existence of Snooki, Honey Boo Boo, and Thursday Night Football?

Looking back at the delay, it hurt Baltimore more than San Francisco in that it took away the momentum of feeling that crushing feeling in your loins the moments after Jacoby Jones streaked through the end zone to make it 28-6.

But it wasn't over. Plenty of time left to mount a comeback. That Kapernick kid is something special, plus Jim Harbaugh wasn't about to let his troops give up so easily. The kick return for a TD would be the last time Baltimore scored a TD in the second half. The Niners' defense hunkered down and held Baltimore to a pair of field goals for the rest of the game.

On the Niners' second possession in the 3Q, they scored their first TD of the game. The 80-yard drive (took under three minutes) was capped off by a 31-yd TD from Kaepernick to Crabtree. The Niners desperately needed that score. So did the suits. It made the rest the 4Q watchable. Baltimore 28, San Francisco 13.

When Baltimore got the ball back, Flacco and the offense went cold. Three and out. For the second time in the 3Q, Baltimore punted from deep in their own territory. The Niners made them pay. Ginn had a favorable punt return. Kapernick hit Vernon Davis for a completion. Gore walked into the end zone. In only took 48 seconds and a mere two plays, before the Niners' scored their second TD of the game. In a flash! 14 quick points. We had a ball game. Baltimore 28, San Francisco 20.

The UNDER bet was about to get torn up, but bets on Niners -3.5 and MIL -165 sprung back to life. I thought both were dead in the water. Maybe Niners' fans paid a priestess to conduct a voodoo ceremony in the parking lot during the blackout? Maybe all that voodoo mystical shit caused the blackout? Who knows. Who cares. The Niners were just one TD and a 2-pt conversion away from tying the game with an entire quarter left to play.

You almost could not have scripted a more perfect time for a turnover. Ray Rice fumbled and San Francisco recovered. San Francisco's play calling in the Red Zone was suspect and ineffective all game. They blew a chance to get a TD and settled on a FG. Bad Akers showed up and missed the FG, but they luckily drew a "running into the kicker" penalty. The zebras gave Akers a rare mulligan. He drilled the second chance. It was his third FG of the day, while Tucker had 0 (zero attempts and 1 botched fake). Baltimore 28, San Francisco 23.

At the start of the 4Q, Flacco rallied his troops and they strung together a deep drive in Niners' territory. But the tough Niners' D kept Flacco out of the end zone. Tucker connected on his first FG of the game. Baltimore 31, San Francisco 23.

San Francisco and Kaepernick went to work in a drive in which Randy Moss contributed a big catch and Gore had a huge blast for 20+ yards. Kaepernick scrambled for his first rushing TD of the game. It was the third Niners' TD in the second half. They pulled to 31-29 and opted for a second point conversion. You've seen the blown call a million times already. Ed Reed went offsides, but Kaepernick failed to convert for two crucial points. No tie. What the fuck happened to the read option? Wasn't these situations the perfect scenarios for Kaepernick to show ff his elusiveness? The Niners' didn't tie the game, but they got a step closer. Baltimore 31, San Francisco 29.

Baltimore took about 5+ minutes off the clock during a scoring drive that resulted in a Tucker FG. The Niners' drew two penalties including a pass interference on Culliver on a crucial third and 9 play. Baltimore 34, San Francisco 29.

San Francisco got the ball with 4:20 to play in a situation every kid dreams about. Sportswriters get huge erections describing those character-defining moments when everything is on the line. Hollywood manipulates those come-from-behind situations to sell movie tickets. But this wasn't a film. This wasn't a nifty story from Grantland Rice or Red Smith about the sepia-colored days when ghosts ruled the grid iron. This was real life. The Super Bowl. The biggest gambling event in the world. Hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the outcome. The fates of two franchises hung in the air. One team would go home heroes. The other team would go home heartbroken and empty handed.

Niners' fans could not have asked for a better situation with your star QB with the ball and a chance to make history. Ravens' fans could not have asked for a better spot with the legendary defense anchored by Ray Lewis trying to thwart one last final assault by the Niners. The trophy was within their grasps. It came down to who wanted it more during a battle of fifteen feet of territory.

It took less than two minutes for Kaepernick to get the ball from their own 20 into the Red Zone. More cloudy play calling and/or poor execution ensued with first and goal from the 7 yard line. All the in-game live betting lines jumped in favor of the Niners winning in all that spot. Baltimore's D stepped up for four plays in a row. On first down, Baltimore's D held LaMike to a 2 yard run. The action paused for the two-minute warning. The ball sat on the 5. Only 15 feet separated the Niners from glory.  With the ball on the 5, the Niners abandoned the run and opted for three pass plays. Instead o giving Frank Gore a shot, or letting Kaepernick try to read-option his way into the end zone, they tried to pass. Baltimore's smothering D prevented Kaepernick from connecting with anyone. Three straight incompletions. The final one to Crabtree stung the most because of the controversial no call from the zebras.

San Francisco turned the ball over on downs, but had enough timeouts to get the ball back for one last fling. Baltimore failed to convert a first down and were forced to punt. More weirdness occurred when Baltimore's O-line tried to hold everyone (holding in end zone results in a safety) and their punter, Koch, ran into the corner while valuable seconds ticked down. Koch stepped out of bounds with 12 seconds left. The Niners' were awarded a safety and Joe Speaker won his prop bet. Safeties two years in the row in the Super Bowl? Yikes. Anyway... Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31.

San Fransisco got one last chance, but it wasn't enough.  Baltimore held onto win. Final score 34-31.

Joe Flacco had another smoking hot game. He did not throw a single INT in the post-season which is one of the main factors he hoisted the Lombardi trophy over his head as confetti rained down on him. Flacco's offense sputtered down the stretch in the regular season and limped into the postseason. Somehow, Jim Caldwell (who was never an O-coordinator before Cam Cameron got the boot) opened up the offense for Flacco and turned his big receivers loose down field. Flacco played out-of-his-tits in the postseason and connected for a few big plays on third downs. Baltimore needed another stellar game from Flacco to win in addition to being helped out by Jacoby Jones' two soul-crushing scores (including a special teams TD). Once again, the Niners' defense started out slow. By the time they finally woke up, it was too late. Flacco and Baltimore inflicted three TDs worth of damage.

I lost all three of my major bets. The only solace... I didn't go too crazy and tried to keep the potential damage to a minimum. We went on a nice heater in the playoffs and it would have been even better if we didn't donk-bet a bunch of teasers. We finally got wise and got rid of any teasers/parlays in the Super Bowl, but it's still disappointing to know you lost your last NFL bet of the season even though it was a profitable season.

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