Shining Star: Flacco Wins Super Bowl With Lights-Out Performance
By Stephen Stone (@SrStoneSports)
Cold Hard Football Facts' AFC North sniper
When the lights went out at the Superdome and the Super Bowl was delayed by over a half an hour, I was incredibly tempted to start writing this column. All the factors were there – a 22-point deficit and a long period of nothing. But on the advice of my fellow Super Bowl party guests, I gave it some time. Then the lights came back on and so did the 49er offense.
The second half was like a whole new world. Destiny’s Child was back together, the Super Bowl couldn’t claim to be a perfect event and the 49ers started playing. A bore-fest turned around faster than Leon Sandcastle running the 40-yard-dash.
Here are five thoughts from the game.
Joe Flacco’s stellar first half earned him the MVP.
Flacco threw three touchdown passes in the first half. The last time a quarterback threw that many scores in one half of the Super Bowl, was in January of 1995. Ironically, it was the last time the 49ers were in the Super Bowl, as Steve Young threw four first-half scoring strikes en route to a dominant victory over the Chargers.
Since then, no quarterback has managed to be as prolific as Flacco was in Sunday’s first half (although, for the record, Brett Favre did throw two touchdown passes and run one in against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.) The Baltimore quarterback was on fire in the first half and, although he never got back his swagger in the second half, he did manage to hold off a furious San Francisco rally. At the end of the day, Flacco finished with 287 yards and 3 touchdown passes. Good for a 124.2 passer rating. Not a bad way to enter free agency.
Ray Lewis turns the lights out on his career in style.
Ok, so the Baltimore linebacker didn’t have a great game. He was far from his MVP performance of 2000. Some might have said he looked like a deer in the headlights all game. He only had four solo tackled and seven overall. You barely heard his name tonight. I think the fat guy from the Go Daddy commercial saw more action than he did. But when the contest was over, he didn’t care.
Lewis is entering retirement as a two-time Super Bowl champion with a plethora of accolades including 13 Pro Bowl appearances and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. It’s a win-win situation. Those who love him got to see him ride off into the sunset as a champion. Those who can’t stand him (which I imagine greatly outweigh the lovers) can feel confident that Lewis won’t play again after what he’s been through. Why would be risk hurting a storybook ending.
Baltimore keeps the “just get in” mantra going strong.
The Ravens weren’t a good team in November and early December. They were a failed 4th and 29 conversion away from possibly missing the playoffs. It seems like we’re saying things like that with a greater amount of frequency.
The last three Super Bowl champions clung to their playoff lives in mid-December of their championship seasons. They found ways in and they made it count. The Giants are now the third straight team to win the Super Bowl with 10 or less wins. Meanwhile, the 2009 New Orleans Saints are the only team in the last nine seasons to win the Super Bowl as a number one seed.
This is the era we live in. Teams no longer fight to get the number one seed. The regular season is no longer about swimming, it’s about treading water. It’s only when the playoffs start when teams really take long strokes against the current. That should be a lesson for every team heading into next season, or at least every betting fan that evaluates each team before the playoffs.
The Ravens defense suffocated Kaepernick when it counted.
If you think about it, Sunday’s game was a microcosm of Baltimore’s season. The Ravens had a great record this year before they started playing poorly, but they had done so well early on that they were able to weather the storm. That’s sort of how the game went.
After the blackout, Kaepernick was recharged and he started doing Colin Kaepernick things – making big plays with his arm and his legs. But the Raven defense had played so well against him in the first half and helped Baltimore build such a big lead that San Francisco didn’t have it in them to complete the comeback.
Midway through the second quarter, Ed Reed intercepted a Kaepernick pass and gave the Ravens enough momentum to build their lead. It was the first time a 49er quarterback had thrown an interception in six games. That makes sense when you consider no one has played QB in the big game for that team without the name Montana or Young, but it was notable to say the least.
Then, after the 49ers gave the Ravens all they could handle in the second half and drove down to the Baltimore 7-yard-line with just over two minutes to go, the defense stepped up again. Kaepernick had his team set to score. It was first and goal from the 7 and the Ravens were on their heels. But Baltimore’s ferocious defense was able to stop San Francisco on three plays and force a fourth down. Losing 34-29 and with just under two minutes to play, the 49ers had to go for it. The Ravens blitzed and Kaepernick had nothing to do but essentially throw it away.
Much of the pregame was about how the 49ers newest star had taken the league by storm, but Baltimore wasn’t about to hear that. In the end, it was the second-year quarterback who looked like, well, a kid with less than 10 starts under his belt. Credit the Ravens defense.
Say it with me: Flacco is elite.
Ultimately, tonight was all about number 5. He has finally slayed the dragon known as mediocrity and has grabbed the elite status by its horns. I mean, if Eli Manning is an elite quarterback, so is Joe Flacco. With nine postseason victories, he’s slowly working his way up the all-time wins list. And it’s not like he’s just along the ride either. This postseason, Flacco threw for 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. While he hasn’t thrown for 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in a season, Flacco has put up solid, if not spectacular numbers.
In each of his last four seasons, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards, 20 or more touchdowns and 12 or fewer interceptions. He’s solid and he’s a winner. He can lead his team into the playoffs and to a championship. These aren’t your older brother’s Ravens either. The 2000 squad was led by one of the greatest defenses in league history. This year’s unit featured aging guys who needed to rely on their quarterback.
Flacco enters free agency this summer and he’ll want to be paid Drew Brees or Peyton Manning money. Basically, he’ll want to be paid as an elite quarterback. He’s finally earned it. He'll make so much money this offseason, he can afford to keep the lights on.