According to Mashable, the Patriots weren’t the only ones who dropped the ball during the Super Bowl. (Sorry, Pats fans. I’m in New England too, and I know this one hurts.) Seems there’s some debate over whether Apple’s lack of commercials was an epic fail, especially in light of Samsung’s ad-jousting on Sunday.

The South Korean company has been poking fun at Cupertino and its customers for a while now, culminating in a new spot for its Galaxy Note phone/tablet (er, “phablet”?). As it was, the “Thing Called Love” commercial stood out amidst the wash of beer and car commercials that came out over the course of the game.

Mashable Editor-in-Chief and author Lance Ulanoff’s op-ed points to the long wait for a genuinely new i-product debut (he doesn’t count the iPhone 4S) as some sort of substantiation of Apple’s failure here. He also cites Steve Jobs’ passing, blaming it for morale problems, and questions the ability of Tim Cook to handle a major product announcement. Ulanoff sees Apple as sitting idly by as competitors like Samsung “take the national stage and beat up on the Cupertino company. Apple will still run its warm, fuzzy ads touting current products and services, but is that enough? I worry that without Steve Jobs, Apple may have lost some of its fighting spirit.”

Thing is, this isn’t the first time Apple has bowed out of Super Bowl ad placements. In fact, the company has a history of going its own way, even ignoring major tech events like CES and Macworld, so its non-appearance here is nothing new. And yet, Ulanoff blames Jobs’ death for de-motivating the company and leading them to the epic mistake of passing up a prime commercial spot.

But was it a mistake? Noah pointed me to a post by Molly Buckley at Raven Pubs that skewers this notion: “Apple didn’t have to pay for advertising. Every NFL player did it FOR them at the end of the game.” Then bam — there’s this list of photos that followed.

Images and notes, courtesy of Raven Pubs

What do you make of this? Do you agree with Ulanoff that Apple made a huge mistake by not running a Super Bowl commercial? Or are you with Buckley, and think the fans and players alone spoke volumes for the brand?

[via Mashable, Raven Pubs]