What we learned during the Ravens’ 34-31 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII:
It wasn’t just Colin Kaepernick that looked a bit spooked by the big stage in the first half, although he certainly played like a rookie before the break. No, the 49ers as a whole were out of sorts right from the start. While they made it a game, remember that they never completely climbed out of that early hole.
A penalty nullified a big gain on their first play from scrimmage, and moments later Kaepernick and his running back went opposite directions on what was meant to be a fake handoff. Then there was a fumble, an interception (and almost another), horrendous play in the secondary by Chris Culliver and just about the worst example of clock management at the end of the first half that we’ve seen since, well, the AFC Championship.
And that was all before the Niners allowed Jacoby Jones to return the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a score, virtually untouched. The bright lights were just a bit too blinding. That’s why Jim Harbaugh had an intern pull the plug, literally, early in the third.
About those lights
Well, the intern is so getting a full-time position, for he/she succeeded in creating the wildest scene in Super Bowl history, save for Anthony Munoz’s crotch after Super Bowl XXIII.
Whatever caused the 35-minute power outage, it was credited with turning the game around. But before we create a million and one conspiracy theories, remember that the Niners did nothing on their third-down play after play resumed and the Ravens actually moved the ball on the ensuing possession before they were chose to punt on fourth-and-short near midfield.
This was a pretty even matchup to begin with. It simply took some time to balance out.
If we could somehow harness all the hot air spewed in debates over who is and who isn’t an elite quarterback in the NFL, our energy crisis would end. Joe Flacco, through December considered by most to be average to good, now creates a whole new round of arguments.
Those in Flacco’s camp can point to a pretty remarkable stretch run. Since an interception against Denver in Week 15, he had 15 interceptions without a pick. He is 9-4 in the playoffs and now joins “elites” such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers with a Super Bowl MVP.
Because he is a Jersey boy with the personality of a doorknob, many will contest Flacco’s inclusion in such a club. Please do. My heating bill is through the roof.
Take the bleepin’ points
When San Francisco began to mount its comeback, one could not help but wonder how important just three extra points would have been for Baltimore. Oh, that’s right, they chose to piss away three points on a fake field goal in the first half that will always be called into question, even though the Ravens won.
It is one thing to run a play like that when you need a few yards for the first down, but John Harbaugh’s gamble forced Ravens kicker Justin Tucker to have to run at an extreme angle from about 16 yards behind the first-down marker. Although Tucker got close, it was a tall order, and not necessary.
The Ray Lewis saga can now come to an end, much to the delight of legions of haters who actually became more annoying in their bluster than Lewis was just being himself. If you can put aside your hatred for the man, he leaves with one heck of a swan song. Deer antler velvet. God. Pregame dances. Satan. We had it all from Ray. We also got to see the Ravens defense, the one he led for 16 years, get wins over Andrew Luck, Manning, Brady and Kaepernick. Lewis was not the player he was in his prime, but things really clicked when he returned, whether you like it or not.
Immobility still reigns
Kaepernick acquitted himself nicely in the second half. The touchdown drive that made it 31-29 featured some incredible play by the 25-year-old. However, pocket passers remain the standard in the NFL. For now.
Since Steve Young won with the Niners 18 years ago, every Super Bowl-winning quarterback has been, for all intents and purposes, a rather traditional strong-armed thrower. And it’s not as if Young couldn’t make all the throws. The day will come when a Kaepernick or a Russell Wilson wins it all. Until then, it’s still big, smart, durable pocket passers like Flacco on top.
Flacco deserves praise. Lewis is a God, or actually God, or something like that, in Baltimore. But Anquan Boldin better not pay for a drink in that town again. He was the best Raven throughout the postseason (just ask the Pats) and a huge presence in this one.
Boldin’s first-quarter touchdown started the scoring and he made multiple big plays on virtual toss-ups, including one to convert a critical third down late in the game. Six catches for 104 yards and a score barely tells the story of a guy who played hungry in the playoffs.