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The Ravens defeated the 49ers, 34-31, to win Super Bowl XLVII and claim their first World Championship since the 2000 season. Below are some thoughts.
It's official. What we in Steeler Nation have dreaded for years has happened: The Baltimore Ravens are World Champions. Of course, it could be worse, San Francisco could have six Super Bowl rings today, complete with a perfect six-for-six record in the Big Game. That makes you feel better, doesn't it? Maybe not.
Below are some XLVII thoughts:
-As PaVaSteelers pointed out, Joe Flacco is the real deal, and he may have completed one of the finest quarterback performances in NFL postseason history after going 73/123 with 11 touchdown passes to no interceptions in four postseason games--including 22/33 for 287 yards and three touchdown passes in his MVP performance in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday evening. Flacco deserved the MVP award, and he certainly deserves to be put in the same category as guys like Brady, Manning, Brees and Roethlisberger. No matter what his career stats say, Flacco is a winner, and as Steelers fans like to point out when discussing Ben Roethlisberger's place in the "elite" pecking order, winning is the bottom line. Flacco has done that better than any other quarterback since he came into the league.
-Speaking of quarterback MVP's, it's quite remarkable how high the standards for the Super Bowl MVP have become over the years. Anytime people discuss Roethlisberger and his performances in Super Bowls, people are quick to point out his interceptions and overall average play, save for his legendary drive at the end of Super Bowl XLIII that culminated in his game-winning strike to Santonio Holmes in the final seconds. Roethlisberger's heroics in that final drive didn't earn him an MVP--the award went to Holmes--however, it's amazing how times have changed. Terry Bradshaw was the MVP in both Super Bowls XIII and XIV, throwing for a combined 627 yards and six touchdowns in the two games. However, he also turned the football over a combined six times. In today's day and age of scrutiny and expected perfection, there is no way a quarterback could win the MVP after so many miscues. It's just speculation on my part, but if Flacco had added a couple of INTs to his overall numbers Sunday night, Anquan Boldin would have probably been the MVP.
-Speaking of scrutiny, I think the folks at the Superdome are taking some unnecessary heat for the power-outage that delayed play for 35 minutes at the start of the third quarter. We live in a society where the phrase "stuff happens" simply doesn't apply anymore, and if an error occurs, SOMETHING must be done about it. I even heard a couple of talking heads say New Orleans shouldn't get another Super Bowl for a long time because of the mishap. Yes, I know the people in attendance paid a lot of money for their tickets, but it was a 35 minute delay. Big deal. They got to take in a Super Bowl in New Orleans. If you want to see some real inconvenience, wait until next year's outdoor Super Bowl in New Jersey. We have no idea what the weather will be like, but a few years ago, that region got dumped on with over two feet of snow on the same weekend as Super Bowl XLIV. If fans and the media have to travel around the New York metro area in a couple feet of snow in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII and shovel out their seats during the game, they'll be wishing for a roof and a 35 minute power outage.
-I was impressed with 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He did seem a bit uneasy in the first half, but once he got it together in the second half, he was lights out (no pun intended). People talk about his legs, and rightfully so, but his arm is amazing, and as CBS analyst Phil Simms pointed out, some of the throws he made were "mesmerizing." I can't believe Super Bowl XLVII was only the 10th start of his career. Has there ever been a quarterback who has led his team so far so fast? I guess you can point to Vince Ferragamo, who led the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl XIV after taking over for an injured Pat Haden late in the '79 season, but Kaepernick has much more upside. Kaepernick is a dangerous runner, but San Francisco nearly overcame a 22 point deficit because of his arm and the throws he made in the second half--including key strikes to Randy Moss, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Barring injury, Kaepernick has a chance to become one of the best QBs in the game.
-Having said that, with everything on the line and the ball at Baltimore's five yard line in the final moments, Kaepernick couldn't make the necessary throws to complete the comeback and bring the 49ers to the Super Bowl Promised Land. For all the talk of the quarterback "evolving" into a two-dimensional position, the Ravens are the Super Bowl champions because of the passes their quarterback connected on, and San Francisco is the runner-up because of the passes its quarterback failed to connect on.
-Ray Lewis may have "inspired" his team to victory, but he had very little impact on the game, and there is no doubt it's time for him to retire.
-The elite Flacco and the inspirational Lewis aside, is it possible that Baltimore's championship season came down to two special teams returns by Jacoby Jones? Would the Ravens have even made the playoffs without Jones' 63 yard punt return for a touchdown in their 13-10 victory over the Steelers in Week 11? And Jones' 108 yard kickoff return to open up the second half tied a Super Bowl record and gave the Ravens a 28-6 lead and proved to be the difference, as San Francisco stormed back and was within five points in the final moments.
-San Francisco's secondary is atrocious. I watched both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl, and the 49ers allowed a combined 683 yards and six touchdowns through the air. It doesn't matter how stout a defense is against the run or how fierce of a pass rush it has, if its secondary is suspect, it's going to have problems and they will be great.
-Of the two Harbaugh brothers, Jim Harbaugh appears to be the more animated one and more likely to throw a hissy-fit and storm out of the room after a "bad beat" in a poker game.
-The Ravens became the sixth Super Bowl winner in the last eight years to start its journey on "Wild Card Weekend." I guess byes aren't nearly as important as they used to be. Apparently, neither is "getting hot at the end of the year." Baltimore lost four of five games to close out the regular season. A year ago, the New York Giants lost five of six games before rallying to win their last two regular season games to sneak into the postseason at 9-7. That means the last two Super Bowl Champions were a combined 4-9 to close out their respective regular seasons. Forget about getting hot at the right time, and forget about byes. Just get into the playoffs and anything is possible in today's NFL.
-Final thought on Super Bowl XLVII: It was the conclusion of yet another football season, and that makes me sad.