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Super Bowl XLVII Review – When The Lights Go Down

My review of the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

The game didn’t appear close. The Ravens jumped out to 21-6 lead thanks to three touchdown passes to three different receivers by Joe Flacco. The 49ers turned the ball over twice, first on a LaMichael James fumble, then on a Colin Kaepernick interception to Ed Reed, who finally decided to show up in the playoffs. Nothing was going right for the 49ers outside of a weak roughing the kicker call that allowed David Akers to make up for a missed field goal. Things didn’t get any better as the second half started at Jacoby Jones took the kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown to put his team up 28-6. The game looked to be all but over.

Then, in a scene straight out of a WWE event, the lights went out. Instead of an attack on Flacco, I’m assuming someone slipped some deer antler juice into the 49ers gatorade because all of a sudden, we had a game.

Kaepernick found Michael Crabtree for a touchdown, Frank Gore scored a touchdown, and then Ray Rice fumbled the ball for the Ravens, leading to a 49ers field goal that made the game 28-23 heading into the fourth quarter. The Ravens kicked a field goal to go up 8, but the 49ers quickly went 76 yards in less than three minutes and scored on a Kaepernick run. On the two point conversion though, Kaepernick somehow overthrew Randy Moss, leaving the 49ers down 31-29.

The Ravens tacked on another field goal, setting up a dramatic final drive for the 49ers and their offense. Three big plays; a Kaepernick run, a Crabtree catch, and a Gore run quickly put the 49ers in the red zone. That’s when things fell apart. After a two yard run by James on 1st down, the 49ers went to Crabtree on the next two plays, burning their second timeout in between as Kaepernick had trouble recognizing the play clock. On 4th down, with the game on the line, Kaepernick once again went to Crabtree. Now, Crabtree was held on the play and it should’ve been a penalty and an automatic first down, but you can’t expect the refs to make that call. 49er fans should be more outraged over the play calling and the lack of awareness of their quarterback and coach. I know Randy Moss isn’t what he once was, but he’s still really tall and can out-jump a single cornerback as long as Kaepernick can put the ball in the right place. Frank Gore thrives in goal line situations because of how big he is, not to mention the fact that Haloti Ngata was out of the game with an injury, leaving a big hole in the middle of that defense. Also, what happened to Kaepernick and the read option on the goal line, which was extremely effective against the Falcons?

Did the refs miss the call? Yes. Should it have even come down to that play? No. Not if Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick, and the offense were on the same page, which they clearly weren’t. I’m not saying that the 49ers would’ve scored and won the game, but they never gave themselves a real chance with the way they handled things inside the 10.

After the failed 4th down, the Ravens got the ball back and essentially ran out the clock. They were nice enough to give the 49ers a safety, but that was only to take the clock down to four seconds. The 49ers had one last chance to win, either returning the free kick for a touchdown or calling for a fair catch and trying a hail mary. They chose the former option and failed.

Final Score: Ravens – 34 49ers – 31

I honestly believe that the 49ers were the better team on Sunday. Kaepernick threw for just over 300 yards, Crabtree and Vernon Davis were each over 100 yards receiving, and Gore had over 100 yards rushing. For Baltimore, Flacco was efficient but Anquan Boldin was the only receiver consistently getting open and Ray Rice was relatively ineffective. But the Ravens got those “intagible” plays (turnovers and special teams) while the 49ers failed to show up in the first half and couldn’t execute in the closing minutes.

I can’t take anything away from the Ravens. They got the big plays when they needed them, especially in the first half, and they made the stop down the stretch. Even if the 49ers play calling was questionable, the Ravens still had to make the stop. I thought Flacco was brilliant from start to finish. The Ravens got a little conservative in the second half, which allowed the 49ers to crawl back into things, but Flacco made every throw he needed to, and, most importantly, took care of the ball.

Many people will point to the power outage as the reason the 49ers got back into the game, but I think that’s just a convenient narrative. Had the game gone the same way post-lights as it was going pre-lights, we would be talking about how the extra time after Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return hurt the 49ers because they couldn’t just get back on the field. They had to sit and think about things for awhile and the game, which hadn’t gone their way at all, was now being prolonged. But because the 49ers were able to rally, we’re talking about how the lights going out slowed down the momentum of the Ravens and allowed the 49ers to regroup. I like to believe that no one suffered from the lights going out. Both teams had to sit and deal with the same circumstances. I think the 49ers benefitted, only because they’re younger and were less banged up. The Ravens came down from an adrenaline high of Jones’ return, got cold, and couldn’t quite pick things back up. The 49ers are a team led by a young quarterback who can use his arm and legs. He was still energized while the Ravens defense got cold.

Now, the 49ers are a second half team as is. They outscored the Packers and Falcons 35-10 in the second half during the playoffs. So even if the lights didn’t go out, I still believe that the 49ers were going to make a run and turn things into a competitive Super Bowl, which looked nearly impossible 30 seconds into the second half.

As much as I’ve hated the coverage of Ray Lewis leading up to the game, I can’t deny that I felt good for him when the Ravens won. I like when hall of fame players and one of the best players at his position retire on top. No matter how you feel about Lewis and his off the field actions, you can’t deny his impact on the field throughout his career. He wasn’t a sympathetic guy holding on for dear life and embarrassing himself while playing. He was still a contributor at a relatively high level. Whether or not he had help via illegal means (I think he did) is for you to ponder and for him to know, but the guy was still producing.

Everyone will remember the lights going out as the “moment” in this Super Bowl, but I’d like to once again praise Flacco for his performance. I’ve been hard on the guy all season, but he was terrific all playoffs. The fact that he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions is something I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted at the start of the playoffs. He outplayed Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road and then torched one of the best defenses in the league in the biggest game of the season. Flacco proved he’s worth whatever amount of money Baltimore pays him this off-season.

And we once again learned that you should never bet against God.

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