Ten Thoughts On the Super Bowl: Ravens 34, 49ers 31
Here are 10 observations from last night’s Super Bowl.
1. During the power outage in the third quarter, I Tweeted the following: If Niners come back after this, we need a 30-for-30 by the end of the week. “What if I told you darkness could create light…”
At the time, I was just joking around. Jacoby Jones had just returned the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards to give the Ravens a 28-6 lead. It looked like we were headed for a blowout. But that’s when things got fun, as the 49ers reeled off 17 in a row. When I was growing up, everyone always joked about how the Super Bowl was a blowout every year. Not so lately. Five of the last six have been one-possession games.
And I try not to speak in hyperbole, but looking at the bigger picture, that might have been the best postseason of my lifetime. The divisional round, conference championships and Super Bowl were all off-the-charts in terms of entertainment value.
2. Sometimes, things just have a way of working themselves out. In my previous sports-writing life, I worked in Baltimore for 2.5 years. Before the 2008 season, the Ravens fired Brian Billick and hired John Harbaugh. But guess who they first targeted as their new head coach? Jason Garrett. And I’m not just speculating here. The Ravens thought they had a deal in place with Garrett before he decided to return to Dallas as the offensive coordinator (obviously with an assurance from Jerry Jones that a head-coaching opportunity was coming).
And so, Baltimore had to “settle” for Harbaugh. All he’s done in five years is go 54-26 (.675) with five playoff berths. The Ravens have won at least one playoff game every year, have made it to the conference championship game three times and now have a Super Bowl title.
Not bad for a backup plan.
3. And then there’s Joe Flacco. You won’t find that silly “elite” argument here. All I know is I can’t remember him making a single bad play – whether that be an off-target throw or a poor decision – last night. Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, earning MVP honors. In the postseason, he tossed 11 TDs and zero picks. Now, the fifth-year signal-caller will be rewarded with a new contract. It’s going to be a pretty good offseason for Flacco.
4. The whole “clutch” thing is overblown and often misguided, but the true definition should be someone raising his level of play when the stakes are highest. I think Anquan Boldin would qualify. During the regular season, he averaged 61.4 yards per game and had four total touchdowns. In four postseason games, Boldin averaged 95 yards per game and had four touchdowns. He came down with six grabs for 104 yards, including a 13-yard score last night. Boldin’s biggest catch might have been in the fourth quarter. The Ravens faced a 3rd-and-1 from their own 45, up 31-29. Niners cornerback Carlos Rogers had Boldin covered, but Flacco threw to his back shoulder down the right sideline for a 15-yard gain. Every QB needs to develop this throw with at least one wide receiver. It’s un-guardable. Of course, it’s easiest when you have a receiver like Boldin who makes contested catches better than anyone in the league. Not the most talented wide receiver when you look at size and speed, but certainly one of the toughest of this era. And few possess his ability to make plays on the ball.
5. Really tough game to evaluate for Colin Kaepernick. The final numbers were pretty good: 16-for-28 for 302 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran seven times for 62 yards and a score. But Kaepernick missed some opportunities. Specifically, on 3rd-and-2 at the end of the first half, it looked like he had Michael Crabtree on the sprint-out to the right, but Kaepernick failed to pull the trigger and took a sack. San Francisco had to settle for a field goal. I’d have to look at the All-22, but it appeared that he had an open receiver when he threw incomplete to Ted Ginn on third down in Ravens territory in the fourth. And finally, in the first quarter, Kaepernick got out of the pocket, but fired high to Crabtree in the end zone. San Francisco ended up settling for a field goal.
Still, 49ers fans have to be excited about the future with Kaepernick. I still say he has many Randall Cunningham-esque qualities, except Kaepernick has the benefit of a coach who knows QBs and an outstanding offensive line. The 15-yard touchdown run around the left corner was a thing of beauty.
6. Delanie Walker did everything he could do to help the 49ers in that game. Great under-the-radar performance. He delivered a great block on Ed Reed during Frank Gore’s 6-yard touchdown run. He reeled in three catches for 48 yards. And he was great on special teams. Someone at CBS said Walker has great hands, which really isn’t true, statistically speaking. According to Pro Football Focus, he had 11 drops during the regular season. But Walker (28), a free-agent-to-be, was spectacular vs. Baltimore.
7. I’m always amazed at how two children, raised by the same parents, can turn out to be so different. Jim Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the league, but man, does he act like a baby on the sideline. If my four-month old daughter develops Harbaugh’s tantrum-throwing ability, I’m not sure I’m going to make it through these next few years.
8. I wonder what Howie Roseman thinks of Paul Kruger. The Ravens’ rush linebacker had a pair of sacks against the Niners, adding to the nine he had in the regular season. Kruger (6-4, 270) turns 27 later this month and is scheduled to be a free agent. I know of a certain team that might be switching to a 3-4 and could be looking for an outside linebacker. Kruger would be especially intriguing if the Eagles end up hiring Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino as their new defensive coordinator.
9. All season, the crew at Football Outsiders argued that the Ravens were pretty much average offensively and defensively during the regular season, but their special teams was the key to getting to 10 wins. That narrative didn’t exactly hold up in the postseason (Flacco was great), but the special-teams part rang true last night. Jones’ return to start the second half was huge. One of the coolest feelings in sports has to be watching yourself on the jumbotron to see if any defenders are on your tail.
10. I’m hesitant to make this point because I know Phil Simms agrees with it, but I’ll go with it anyway. In the coming months, we’ll hear about how arm strength is overrated when talking about draft prospects. And I’m in agreement that it’s not everything. There are several other factors to consier. But you saw last night what a huge advantage it is when the QB can throw lasers. Flacco made a few passes that simply don’t get completed if he doesn’t have a gun. The one that stands out is the 13-yard TD to Boldin that he fired past linebacker Patrick Willis.
Extra points: I’ve missed you, Saul Goodman. Thanks for making an appearance in that Samsung commercial. … Nothing says German beer like No Diggity. Well done, Beck’s. …There could have been a flag thrown on Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith on the Niners’ final possession. Then again, there could have been a flag on San Francisco for hitting Flacco late on the previous set of downs. I’m fine with both no-calls. …I enjoyed the Dodge Ram/farmer commercial. Made me consider going out and grabbing a shovel, but I decided I didn’t want these dainty hands to get too dry. …We’re at Fast And Furious 6? I am proud to say I’ve never seen a minute of any of the first five. … Seeing Kevin from The Office out-of-character in that Subway commercial was the worst part of my night. …It pains me that CBS can advertise Big Bang Theory as America’s top comedy and be telling the truth. I thought my mother in-law was the only person who watched that show. Where did we veer off-path as a nation? …I’ll admit it. I laughed when Leslie Knope said ‘Dongle.’