Sunday, February 3, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Ravens 34, 49ers 31
By Jamison Hensley
NEW ORLEANS -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers:
What it means: Twelve years after the Ravens' first Super Bowl title, Baltimore is once again on top of the football world. Joe Flacco went from a heavily criticized quarterback to a Super Bowl-winning one with a dominant postseason. Ravens coach John Harbaugh won bragging rights over his younger brother, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, and improved his postseason record to 9-4, tying Bill Belichick and Jimmy Johnson for the fifth-best winning percentage by a head coach. And the Ravens sent out Ray Lewis on top, giving him his second Super Bowl title in the final NFL game of his 17-year career.
Sweating it out: Cornerback Jimmy Smith, a disappointing first-round pick for the Ravens, came up big late in the fourth quarter. With the Ravens ahead 34-29, Smith broke up a pass on third-and-goal and his physical coverage on Michael Crabtree led to the incompletion on fourth-and-goal with 1:46 remaining. The defense had given up 23 points in the second half.
Postseason to remember: Flacco came of age in this postseason. Showing elusiveness and a strong arm, Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. His 11 touchdowns in the playoffs tied Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most in a single postseason. He threw two touchdown passes in the red zone and hit Jacoby Jones for a 56-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. His biggest pass of the game, though, came late in the fourth quarter when he completed a pass to Anquan Boldin on third-and-1, which allowed the Ravens to get into field goal position. It allowed Baltimore to extend its lead to 34-29.
Quite a homecoming: Ed Reed wasn't the only Ravens player returning to his hometown. Jacoby Jones had a 56-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first half and delivered another blow to start the third quarter. He returned the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest return in Super Bowl history. Jones also had returns of 105 and 108 yards for touchdowns in the regular season.
Homecoming, Part 2: Reed also made an impact on the game. He ended a seven-game interception drought by picking off Colin Kaepernick in the second quarter. Then, when the 49ers closed to within 31-29, Reed forced the failed two-point conversion when he blitzed Kaepernick, who had to rush his throw.
Bumpy last ride: Ray Lewis' final game was far from his finest. He was often picked on in the passing game and didn't have the speed to keep up with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. But Lewis won a Super Bowl 12 years after his first one. Only Ted Hendricks (13 seasons) went longer between Super Bowl titles.
Lights out: There was an unprecedented delay of 34 minutes early in the third quarter, when half of the lights went out in the Superdome. It caused the Ravens to lose momentum in the game. The 49ers scored 17 unanswered points in a span of 4 minutes, 10 seconds.
Strange call: Up 14-3 in the second quarter, the Ravens got a turnover in 49ers territory and then got too cute. Instead of kicking a 31-yard field goal, the Ravens went with a fake field goal and Justin Tucker came up one yard short on fourth-and-9. Luckily for Harbaugh, the 49ers went three-and-out and the Ravens responded with a touchdown.
What's next: An offseason that will include decisions on Flacco and Reed. The Ravens will either get a long-term deal done with Flacco or put the franchise tag on him. It's more uncertain what the Ravens will do with Reed, who will be a free agent in March.