Ravens edge 49ers in Super Bowl thriller

Baltimore Ravens players celebrate Super Bowl victory
Photo courtesy of Shawn Hubbard of the Baltimore Ravens.

The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the most imposing franchises in the NFL since their move from Cleveland. Their mascot is an angry bird, their colors are purple and black, and their middle linebacker has been Ray Lewis.

An often misunderstood and always polarizing figure, Lewis has been the lead intimidator on the league’s most intimidating team for 17 years. His has been a story of tragedy and triumph, his will leading an always tough defense just as God’s will has led him. But as he steps aside it is clear, the Ravens are no longer his team and their identity has changed.

It was offense that drove the Baltimore Ravens to their second world championship, a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, and it was led by quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco was named the game’s MVP on a night where Baltimore allowed more yards on defense than any of the previous 46 winners had, 468. In this postseason, Flacco tossed eleven touchdowns with no interceptions. On this night, 22-of-33, 287 yards, three touchdowns.

Penalties influenced this game early, the 49ers completing a 20-yard pass on the game’s first play, called back for illegal formation. After the subsequent punt, an offside penalty kept the field goal team off the field, and gave Joe Flacco the chance to find Anquan Boldin for the game’s first score from 13 yards out. The 49ers did not make many mistakes, but every mistake seemed to hurt them and two turnovers switched the game around in the second quarter.

With Baltimore leading 7-3, 49ers rookie LaMichael James fumbled at the Ravens 25, Baltimore drove 75 the other way capped by a Flacco to Dennis Pitta pass to make it 14-3. The next 49ers play was a high pass from Colin Kaepernick, intercepted by Ed Reed. While the first fake field goal in Super Bowl history came up a yard short, and no points were scored, it flipped the field. On their next possession, Flacco found Jacoby Jones deep; he fell to the ground upon the catch, got up, and raced into the end zone to give the Ravens a 21-3 advantage, a 56-yard play.

When Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 108-yard touchdown, the lead stood at 28-6 then…darkness.

It is still unclear the cause but half the overhead lights went out at the 13:22 mark of the third quarter, and were out 34 minutes. Once the lights came back, so did the 49ers. In a 4:10 stretch, San Francisco scored 17 points to cut the deficit to 28-23 with 3:10 to play in the third. But Flacco, leading with cool, restored order. Though they failed to score another touchdown, it was the pair of field goals which bookended a spectacular run by Kaepernick, which kept the Ravens in front, setting up the finish.

The legs of Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick brought the 49ers down the field as the clock approached two minutes, but they were undone by substandard play calling and poor execution. From the 7, it was James who got his first carry since the second quarter fumble, and he managed only two yards. Two incompletions followed, neither had a chance, one was a rollout and the other was a poor route.

On fourth down, Kaepernick looked to Michael Crabtree for a third successive play, there was contact with corner Jimmy Smith, the ball sailed out-of-bounds. No penalty call, no answers for San Francisco. A last second punt return following an intentional safety ended far short and it was the Ravens’ night.