The Baltimore Ravens are your Super Bowl XLVII Champions after beating the San Francisco 49ers by the score of 34-31. It was a game that could have been the biggest comeback in NFL history, but ultimately it was too little, too late for a San Francisco squad that dominated the second half. At one point the 49ers were down 22 points, but with less than five minutes remaining, it was anyone's game.
Early in the first quarter, everything was going Baltimore's way. The Ravens benefited from an illegal formation penalty, and the 49ers were forced into long situations during their first drive. The ensuing punt gave Joe Flacco excellent field position, and he led the perfect drive -- capped off with an Anquan Boldin reception for a touchdown to give them a 7-0 lead. This wasn't the San Francisco team we'd seen all year on defense, as the Ravens gashed them early with a series of short passes to running backs that allowed deeper completions to their receivers.
San Francisco's second drive was a complete change from its first. Relying on their varied ground attack, the 49ers used a mixture of Frank Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick to set up their passing game, a deep completion to Vernon Davis that got them within the 10-yard line. From here, however, the offense that ran through the Ravens' defense stalled -- and the 49ers had to resort to a short David Akers field goal.
With just under ten minutes in the first half, Baltimore extended its lead to 14-3 following a Joe Flacco pass to Dennis Pitta. A costly fumble by running back LaMichael James set up the score, as it gave the Ravens excellent field position which they capitalized on with a heavy dose of tight end Ed Dickson.
On the following drive, Kaepernick made a terrible mistake, as he forced a pass and tried to do too much. Overthrowing wide receiver Randy Moss, it was Ed Reed who got to play spoiler to another quarterback's plans -- picking off the pass, and tying the NFL record for post-season interceptions.
As the half came to a close, the Ravens weren't going to settle for a simple 11-point lead. With just under two minutes left on the clock, Joe Flacco heaved a pass deep and found a streaking Jacoby Jones who burnt Chris Culliver. He avoided near-disaster by catching the pass while falling, and followed that up by regaining his footing, spinning away from a defender, and diving into the end zone.
All the 49ers could muster was another field goal. Stopped short yet again.
There have been questions throughout the season about whether or not Joe Flacco should be considered an elite quarterback. In the first half of the Super Bowl he was that, and more. As Beyonce warmed up her pipes for the halftime show, Flacco had connected on 13 of 20 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Call it a charmed life, but he dodged the pass rush, found receivers downfield, and allowed the Ravens' big-play potential to work in concert with their ground game. Keeping the 49ers' defense off-balance was the key to the Ravens' first half offensively, and it worked as the game hit its break with Baltimore having gained 241 yards.
The San Francisco 49ers needed to turn it around quickly, and with the Baltimore Ravens receiving the kickoff they needed their defense to work overtime. Like a bolt of lightning, Jacoby Jones was gone, returning the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. With the lead extended to 22, it looked too much for the 49ers to overcome -- and then the lights went out.
Half the lights in the Superdome went dark, then all of them. The CBS crew lost all power, reverting to a 'B package' of ads and sideline reporters to keep the audience informed. For over 33 minutes, half the stadium was without power. Players did their best on the field to stay loose, stretching, and asking as many questions possible about how soon they could return to competition. An impromptu post-halftime show began, as the TV crew hurried to offer analysis, and highlights of the game so far.
The lights came back on, and there was a change in the pace of the game. With half an hour to think about their need to score quickly, the 49ers had a new-found sense of urgency. Colin Kaepernick played a sensational game (with the exception of his interception) and orchestrated a pass-heavy drive that saw the second-year quarterback find Michael Crabtree on a crossing route that put the ball between two defenders and resulted in a touchdown. Following that, a stalled Baltimore drive and a short punt gave San Francisco the perfect opportunity, and one the 49ers didn't squander. With a touchdown on the ground from Frank Gore, it was now an eight-point game, and the Ravens had lost all their early momentum.
It went from bad, to worse. On Baltimore's next drive, running back Ray Rice fumbled the ball following a short catch, turning it over to San Francisco. Baltimore looked like a defeated team -- despite having the lead, and time on their side, it was as if their loss was pre-destined. So much first-half bravado was gone, and the once-demoralized 49ers had a new lease on life. They were unable to score a touchdown on their third consecutive drive, but a David Akers field goal made it a five-point game.
Much like San Francisco in the first half, the Baltimore Ravens had a long drive, only to stall short and settle for a short field goal. The lead was back at eight points, with just under 13 minutes to play.
If the first half was the Baltimore Ravens' show, the second was San Francisco's world -- a deep completion to Randy Moss, two runs by Frank Gore, and all of a sudden the 49ers were back in scoring range. Colin Kaepernick ran up the left side of the field with extreme haste, scoring a 15-yard rushing touchdown, it was the longest running TD by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. The two-point conversion attempt failed, though, and Baltimore held on to a tenuous two-point lead.
Another failed drive, another field goal. This was becoming an epidemic for the Baltimore Ravens, and one they needed to right in order to stave off the second-half comeback. There were less than five minutes on the clock, and the San Francisco only needed a touchdown to take the lead.
Gashing deep passes, and chances that fell just short. San Francisco's drive with four minutes left was an up-and-down effort that finally leaned heavily on Frank Gore to pick up the hard yards, and hurt a Baltimore defense that was lacking lateral speed. Haloti Ngata had left the game with a knee injury, and his absence on the defensive front left the Ravens big, but slow. It all came down to a goal-line stand with under two minutes to play -- and while the 49ers tried to exert their will, ultimately it was the veteran Ravens who held strong. The Lombardi Trophy is their reward.
The Harbaugh brothers, Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick's tattoos -- all are now relegated to storylines of the past. The veteran, aging, Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl champions once again.
Fantasy studs and duds
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones was a difference-maker throughout the game, with 56 yards receiving and a touchdown combined with a 108-yard kick return for a touchdown.
Also for the Ravens, Joe Flacco had a sensational game, finishing with 287 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Despite his early interception, Colin Kaepernick played amazing football -- especially for a young quarterback making just his 10th career NFL start. In the passing game, he had 302 yards and a touchdown, while he used his legs to great effect, rushing for 62 yards and one more score.
Ray Rice, on the other hand, was a dud, ending the game with only 59 rushing yards on 20 carries. His costly fumble could have been disastrous for the Ravens.
Haloti Ngata left the game with a knee sprain in the second half. Officially listed as "questionable" to return, he did not see the field in the remainder of the game.
Did they cover?
With the Baltimore Ravens being given 4.5 points, they won outright.