NEW ORLEANS — Chris Culliver’s tough week continued even as he finally got a chance to play football rather than answer questions from reporters.
The embattled second-year cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers sparked a controversy with his remarks on media day about not wishing to play with gay teammates, and finished the week getting beaten badly on a number of plays, including one devastating touchdown pass, in the first half of San Francisco’s 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
At the close of the first half, Jacoby Jones, Baltimore’s No. 3 wide receiver, got open near the goal line, catching the ball before falling backward to the turf. Having been left behind on the play, Culliver compounded matters by failing to touch Jones down. The speedy Jones proceeded to get up and outrace Culliver across the field, scoring the Ravens’ third touchdown.
Perhaps even more devastating to the 49ers’ chances, in the fourth quarter, on a third-and-9 with the score 31-29, Culliver committed an obvious pass interference penalty on Torrey Smith that extended what had looked like a three-and-out for Baltimore. The Ravens were able to keep the drive going after the first down and scored a field goal, their final points of the game.
Culliver spent the week leading up to the game answering questions about a radio interview in which he said that he would not accept a gay teammate and that any gay player should wait 10 years after retirement to reveal his sexual orientation. During the team’s news media availability Thursday, a quiet Culliver answered more than 100 questions from reporters about the comments and heard numerous teammates distance themselves from him and his remarks. By then he had retracted his comments, but it was too late to prevent his being viewed as a villain by many fans.
Culliver, 24, has vowed to undergo sensitivity counseling.
Officiating concerns: After a week of questions surrounding the circumstances of their appointment to the biggest game of the year, Super Bowl officials found themselves being second-guessed for some curious decisions on the field, too.
There was the usual chatter about holding and pass interference calls, but a more unusual moment came in the second quarter when players from both teams began pushing and shoving after a Baltimore interception.
During the fracas, Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams clearly pushed Steve Selljes, the head linesman, sending the official stumbling backward. By rule, a player who makes aggressive contact with an official must be ejected. But Jerome Boger, the referee, announced that the only penalties assessed after the fray were offsetting personal fouls for unnecessary roughness. Williams remained in the game.
This was not Boger’s first instance this season in which contact with an official was an issue. In a regular-season game, Boger did not eject Carolina quarterback Cam Newton after Newton bumped into him while protesting a call. Boger’s appointment to the Super Bowl — and his ranking as the top official in the league this season — were the subject of discussion after questions were raised over the grading system the league uses to rank officials during the regular season.