SUPER BOWL: RAVENS RIDE POWER SURGE TO CROWN
NEW ORLEANS—Ray Lewis’ last ride has ended with a Baltimore Ravens coronation.
Twelve years after they won their first Super Bowl with Lewis and the defense leading the way, the Ravens reigned again, finishing off a surprising playoff run in dramatic fashion. Behind the arm of Joe Flacco and the legs of Jacoby Jones, the Ravens held off the San Francisco 49ers in a 34–31 victory in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Completing one of the best postseasons for a quarterback ever, Flacco threw three first-half touchdown passes to three different receivers. Jones, who caught one of those touchdowns, then provided the exclamation point by returning the opening kickoff of the second half for a 108-yard score. That gave the Ravens a 28–6 lead.
Flacco finished the game 22 of 33 for 287 yards and the three first-half touchdowns to earn game Most Valuable Player honors.
The victory gives the Ravens their second Super Bowl title and their coach, John Harbaugh, significant bragging rights over his younger brother Jim, the coach of the 49ers.
It also provides a fitting end to the Lewis era, which spanned 17 seasons, and established the identity of the franchise.
Now Lewis, the only remaining player from the team that blitzed the New York Giants to win Super Bowl XXXV, and his teammates will get one more ride, a trip through the streets of downtown Baltimore for a parade to celebrate their achievement.
The Ravens, who limped into the playoffs by losing four of their last five games, proved once again that it isn’t always the dominant team in the regular season that captures Super Bowl glory. It’s the team that is at its best when the games matter most, and the Ravens left little doubt that they were that team.
They overwhelmed the Indianapolis Colts and their rookie phenom quarterback Andrew Luck in the first round. They needed two overtimes and one miracle 70-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Jones to beat the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in a pulsating divisional-round game. They then bullied Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win an AFC championship game rematch.
In front of an announced 71,024 and with the football world watching, the Ravens took a 21–6 lead into halftime and led 28–6 when the power went out in the stadium, causing a delay of more than 30 minutes.
When play resumed, the 49ers grabbed all the momentum. Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree, who spun off tackles from Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard to complete a 31-yard score.
The 49ers got the ball right back, and two plays after a 32-yard punt return by Ted Ginn, Frank Gore ran it in from 6 yards out to make it a 28–20 game and give San Francisco two touchdowns in two minutes, 23 seconds.
Ray Rice then fumbled, giving San Francisco the ball on the Ravens’ 24. Getting a second chance after he was run into by Chykie Brown, David Akers converted from 34 yards to make it a 28–23 lead.
The Ravens drove the ball inside the 49ers’ 5 on their next possession, but were forced to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.
Kaepernick then needed just five plays to get the 49ers into the end zone. His 15-yard touchdown run cut the Ravens’ lead to 31–29. The 49ers tried to tie the game with a two-point conversion but Kaepernick’s pass was incomplete.
Tucker then kicked a 38-yard field goal to make it 34–29. After San Francisco turned the ball over on downs at the Baltimore 5 with less than two minutes to play, Ravens punter Sam Koch later took a safety to run down the clock, making it 34–31 with four seconds left.
For the Ravens, who were relaxed yet focused all week, Super Bowl XLVII couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. After a 20-yard Kaepernick pass to Vernon Davis was nullified by an illegal formation penalty on the game’s first play from scrimmage, the 49ers went three-and-out.
Flacco then needed just six plays to get his team into the end zone and show that the two-week layoff hadn’t affected his hot hand. The big play on the drive was a 20-yard completion to Torrey Smith. On third-and-4 from the 49ers’ 13, Flacco found Anquan Boldin open in the back of the end zone. It was Flacco’s ninth touchdown pass of the postseason. Four of them went to Boldin, and this one was eerily similar to one of Boldin’s touchdown passes against the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
The 49ers answered with a long drive that set up a first goal from the Ravens’ 8. However, Gore got no gain on first down, Kaepernick missed an open receiver in the end zone on second down and then he was sacked by Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger on third down. That forced David Akers’ 36-yard field goal, which cut the Ravens’ lead to 7–3.
For one of only two times in the first half, San Francisco stopped the Ravens and two passes to Davis, who was working on Ray Lewis, and a 9-yard run by LaMichael James had San Francisco on the move. But before they reached the red zone, James was stripped by fellow rookie Courtney Upshaw, and the ball was recovered by Arthur Jones at the Ravens’ 25.
The Ravens wasted no time converting the turnover into points. Tight end Ed Dickson, who has struggled with his hands the past couple of seasons, made a juggling 23-yard catch to get the Ravens deep in 49ers’ territory. Another catch by Dickson, plus a facemask on Donte Whitner on the play, set up a first-and-goal. On second-and-goal from the 1, Flacco froze linebacker Patrick Willis with a play fake and found his other tight end, Dennis Pitta, alone in the end zone.
It was the 10th straight time the Ravens had converted a red-zone possession into a touchdown, and it left Flacco one touchdown pass shy of tying the record for most touchdown passes in a single postseason.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Kaepernick, who looked rattled for most of the first half, overthrew Randy Moss and was intercepted by Ed Reed. It was the ninth postseason interception for Reed, who was playing in his first Super Bowl less than a half hour from where he grew up.
The interception gave the Ravens the ball on the 49ers’ 38. They got down as far as the 14 before back-to-back Flacco incompletions brought rookie kicker Justin Tucker on the field. Despite it being fourth-and-9, Harbaugh called for a fake field goal and Tucker was hauled down 1 yard short of the first down by safety Darcel McBath.
The curious decision cost the Ravens a chance to take a two-touchdown lead and opened up John Harbaugh for some second-guessing. It did not, however, slow the Ravens’ momentum.
Another three-and-out by San Francisco gave the Ravens good field position, and on third-and-10 from their 44, Flacco stepped out of the pocket and lofted a pass to Jacoby Jones, who had gotten behind Chris Culliver. Jones came back for the ball and tumbled to the ground to make the catch. Untouched, he got up and sprinted to the end zone to complete the 56-yard touchdown connection and give the Ravens a 21–3 lead.
Even a 27-yard field goal by Akers as time expired in the first half, which made it a 21–6 game, didn’t diminish the enthusiasm from a pro-Ravens’ crowd. The Ravens were given a standing ovation as they jogged off the field, and in the middle of it was Flacco, who was 13 of 20 for 192 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
The Ravens were 30 minutes from a coronation.