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With the championship on the line, Corey Graham makes plays

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- The San Francisco 49ers had three plays to move the ball five yards and win the Super Bowl.

Twice, they tried to beat Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Graham. Twice, the 49ers failed.

Graham, a Turner-Carroll alum, helped Baltimore lock down the Super Bowl XLVII victory Sunday night by denying San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree inside the two-minute warning and helping the Ravens win, 34-31.

On second and third down, Colin Kaepernick threw to Crabtree on the right side of the field -- once in the end zone and once in the flat -- but Graham didn't buckle.

"The pressure's on down there," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "I mean, you're not going to get any help in those situations, and to play a guy like Crabtree down there, my hat's off to him. It's a great job."

Pees said he called for run pressure on all three of those plays from the 5-yard line. Kaepernick is a threat to run, and Frank Gore rushed for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.

But the Niners ran LaMichael James up the middle for a 2-yard gain on first down and then threw three times to Crabtree, who was covered by Graham on the first two.

"It's like a blur," Graham said. "I can't tell you exactly what they did.

"But when it comes down to it, we get paid to cover. You've got to go out there and cover your guy and not be the guy that gives up a touchdown."

On second down, Graham and Crabtree jostled for position in the end zone, and Kaepernick's pass sailed too far. On third down, Kaepernick went to the sideline, but Graham and Jimmy Smith were there to break up the pass.

On fourth down, the Kaepernick tried Crabtree again. Graham wasn't in coverage, and the ball was overthrown. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh complained that Smith held him.

"I'm thinking about making a play to help us win the game," Graham said. "I don't look at it like 'Don't give up this touchdown.' I look at it as, 'Make this play to win.'

"We knew it was going to come down to making a play at the end. We knew we had to clamp down and find a way to get it done. Guys stepped up. Guys made plays when they mattered."

Graham, a special-teams Pro Bowler who didn’t become a starter until Lardarius Webb went down with a knee injury, closed out a fantastic postseason with six tackles and two pass breakups.

Graham also made a tackle on Niners running back LaMichael James, allowing outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw to force a fumble the Ravens recovered and converted into a touchdown.

"Corey's just done a great job for us all year," Pees said. "This is a guy that's filled in for [Webb] early in the season, played consistent. I can't say enough about him."


Corey Graham | Jim Harbaugh | Super Bowl XLVII
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |