In one of the more entertaining Super Bowls of the last few decades, the Ravens held on to beat the 49ers, 34-31. Here are some quick-hit observations from Baltimore’s upset.
+ There’s no question that Jimmy Smith held Michael Crabtree in the end zone on that fourth-down play. We’ve all seen cornerbacks flagged for less and if there’s a penalty on the play, then throw the flag, period. (That statement is in reference to those suggesting that the refs were right by “letting the players play.”) But a game is never decided by one play. Jim Harbaugh and Vic Fangio’s defense gave up 34 points after surrendering the second-fewest points during the regular season, and the Niners saved one of their worst performances for the biggest game of the year. They have every reason to be upset with the non-call on Smith, but they were also in control of what happened for 58 minutes prior to that play and they simply didn’t do enough to win the game.
+ The power outage was a disaster for the NFL. Millions of people had to wait 30 minutes for someone at the Superdome to find the fuse box and this was after waiting for what felt like an hour for Beyonce to wrap up her halftime show. Considering the NFL has priced out its fans at local stadiums and doesn’t allow any business to utter the words “Super Bowl” without wanting a fee in return, the delay was embarrassing for Roger Goodell and Co. The situation was most likely unavoidable, but embarrassing nonetheless.
+ Of course, I don’t know which corporation should have been more embarrassed during the outage – the NFL or CBS. The network supplied 10 hours worth of pre-game coverage but all of a sudden it had nothing to say during a 30-minute delay. Steve Tasker played the role of Monty from the “Major League” movies, painfully giving TV viewers his best play-by-play of the scene. If this situation didn’t expose television sideline reporters for how useless they are, I don’t know what will. To be fair, it’s not as if CBS was planning on having a 30-minute show four minutes into the third quarter. But something tells me FOX would have handled the situation with more aplomb.
+ There was one good thing to come out of the power outage: Twitter. People’s tweets during the delay were 10-times funnier than any commercial that was aired during the game. And it isn’t even close.
+ It’s going to be debated ad nauseam whether or not the power outage allowed the 49ers to settle down and avoid what seemed to be a surefire blowout. And hey, maybe it did. If they go three-and-out following Jones’ kickoff return, maybe Baltimore wins the game running away. Instead, the delay stunted the Ravens’ momentum and allowed the 49ers to regain their composure. Then again, it’s not as if San Francisco hadn’t shown the ability to battle back from double-digit deficits before. Two weeks ago it looked like the Falcons were going to soar into the Super Bowl after building a 17-0 lead in the first quarter of the NFC title game. It’s hard to quantify how much the delay meant to the Niners, but they’re not a team that’s easily rattled. Outage or no outage, the 49ers weren’t going to waive the white flag after trailing by 22 points and an entire second half yet to be played.
+ By completing 73-of-126 passes for 1,140 yards with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions, Joe Flacco had one of the most impressive postseasons by a quarterback in NFL history. And now that he’s a Super Bowl MVP with a dazzling 9-4 postseason record, he’s worth every penny the Ravens will pay him this offseason.
+ Considering he’s never thrown for over 4,000 yards or 25 touchdown passes in a single season, there’s an argument to be made that he still doesn’t belong in the same category as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. But he holds tremendous value to a team like the Ravens, who evaluate talent as well as any franchise in the NFL and who contends on a yearly basis. Baltimore needs a quarterback that can win in the postseason, which Flacco has now done for five straight years. He may continue to battle with consistency throughout his career, but given his contributions in the postseason he’s proven that he’s a franchise player. And in this day and age, franchise quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings can command $17-plus million a year.
+ Imagine how much money the Ravens could have saved had they paid Flacco at the start of the season instead of waiting to see how the year panned out. Stupid hindsight.
+ What was most impressive about Flacco’s performance was his ability to extend plays. There were multiple times during the course of the game where you would have thought he was gearing up to throw the ball 20 yards into the stands and instead, he chucked it downfield for huge, drive-sustaining completions. For as much as the Niners’ secondary was exposed the past two games, it’s not fair to ask defensive backs to cover receivers for 20 seconds downfield. Flacco consistently put pressure on San Francisco’s defense throughout the game.
+ For as well as Flacco played, there’s an argument to be made that Jacoby Jones deserved MVP. Had the power not gone off at the Superdome, his kickoff return to start the second half may have spurred a Baltimore blowout. Flacco’s longest touchdown pass was a pass that he under threw to Jones, who made a great adjustment and had the wherewithal to get up, make a move on Chris Culliver and sprint to the end zone for a touchdown. Considering that was the only catch Jones made, the MVP award probably wound up in the right hands. But Jones’ contributions cannot be understated.
+ If this was Anquan Boldin’s swan song in Baltimore (he turns 33 next season and is owed $6 million, so he could be a cap causality this offseason), what a tremendous ending it was. He was the best player on the field when the Ravens beat the Colts in the wild card round and for the past three weeks he’s made one spectacular play after another. The move he put on the linebacker on his touchdown reception in the first quarter was sweet, but not as impressive as the catch he made on that third-and-one play in the fourth quarter with Carlos Rogers hanging all over him. The concentration that Boldin showed on that play was incredible and there’s no question he earned his Super Bowl ring with his performance throughout the entire postseason.
+ It was ridiculous to listen to people debate whether or not Jim Harbaugh should bench Colin Kaepernick and insert Alex Smith at halftime. Kaepernick did have the one overthrow that Ed Reed intercepted in the first half but he also made a ton of throws that Smith could only dream about making (the bullets to Vernon Davis and the throw to Delanie Walker right before halftime stand out the most). It wasn’t Kaepernick’s fault that LaMichael James had the ball punched out of his hands by Courtney Upshaw when the Niners were in Baltimore territory, or that San Francisco’s vaunted defense couldn’t limit the big play. I also wasn’t aware that Kaepernick played on the kickoff coverage unit and could have stopped Jones from racing into the NFL record book right after halftime. If nothing else, this game showed how resilient this kid is. Once again unfazed by the scoreboard, he nearly willed the Niners to victory despite the fact that San Francisco collectively played one of its worst games of the season. He did look a little rattled at times in the first half but again, some of the throws he made were off the charts impressive. There’s no doubt he has a bright future ahead of him.
+ Their near-collapse not withstanding, the Ravens were clearly the more prepared team. They played faster, seemingly had the better overall game plan, and once again weren’t intimidated by a team that was better on paper. They saved their best football for the final four weeks of the season, just like the Giants did a year ago.
+ The Ravens did a nice job in the first half when it came to defending the 49ers’ read-option. But just like the Falcons in the NFC title game, they didn’t make any adjustments when the wheels started to fall off. Terrell Suggs often looked like Atlanta’s John Abraham, aggressively attacking the edge while trying to keep Kaepernick contained, only to create huge running lanes for Frank Gore. Of course, had the Ravens not lost Haloti Ngata in the third quarter maybe they would have done a better job containing the Niners’ potent rushing attack. Then again, San Francisco’s offensive line was so dominant in the second half that even Ngata may not have made a huge difference.
+ Not to rain on Ray Lewis’ parade but he may have been the worst player on the field, or at least among the regular starters. Clearly lacking his antelope spray, he was brutal in both coverage and in run support. But hey, he walks away a two-time Super Bowl champion, which is all anyone cares to remember.
+ It was a tough night for the greatest receiver of all-time. I didn’t even realize Randy Moss was on the field until he finally caught a pass a good 40 minutes into the game.
+ Speaking of tough nights, Chris Culliver won’t want to re-live this week any time soon. Not only is he headed to sensitivity training after making anti-gay remarks earlier this week, but he was also victimized on Jacoby Jones’ 56-yard touchdown in the second quarter and was flagged for a crucial pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-9 midway through the fourth quarter. The penalty allowed the Ravens to maintain possession and eventually kick a field goal to go up, 34-29. (Then again it’s also fair to question why the refs didn’t throw the flag on Jimmy Smith considering Culliver’s infraction was similar.)
+ The 49ers turned the ball over twice, while the Ravens turned it over once. That means no team in this year’s postseason won while also losing the turnover battle. San Francisco also finished with three more penalties than Baltimore and was worse when it came to converting on third down and in the red zone. As much as we want to complicate the game of football (and it certainly is a complex game), sometimes it’s easy to point to why a team won or lost.
+ Beyonce isn’t my cup of tea but I’ve seen worse halftime performances – much worse. (I thought the Black Eyed Peas – also known as “Studio Magic” were brutal a few years ago.) At least she was fun to look at for 20 minutes.
+ The commercials weren’t bad, they just weren’t memorable, especially for the Super Bowl. I laughed at the old people painting the town red in the Taco Bell ad and the Hyundai commercial where the kid assembles a superhuman football team after the bullies steal his football was funny, too. But for seven billion dollars a commercial, I’m firing my marketing team on Monday. How did those commercials stand out? I’ve seen more effective commercials on a typical NFL Sunday.