Anyone have any lingering questions about Joe Flacco?
No? Didn’t think so. Joe Flacco is an elite Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP…
…and the Baltimore Ravens are World Champions.
Flacco was magnificent on the biggest stage in the World of sports, completing 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was calm, didn’t flinch, and slid away from pressure, avoiding the rush as if he had one of those backup cameras for cars mounted in his helmet.
Especially potent in the first half, Flacco completed 13 of 20 passes for 192 yards to give the Ravens a 21-3 lead with 1:45 left in the half. Then when Flacco was warming up to take the field for the second half, wide receiver Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff 108 yards and a seemingly insurmountable 28-6 cushion.
The game was rapidly slipping away from the Niners. They couldn’t stop the Ravens offense, they couldn’t hold on to the ball when it was theirs and they couldn’t cover the second half kickoff – most importantly, they couldn’t match the physicality of the Baltimore Ravens – and this was supposedly the most physical team in the NFL.
And then the lights went out.
34 momentum-sucking minutes later and suddenly it was the Ravens that couldn’t stop the 49ers offense, couldn’t hold onto the ball, couldn’t cover a kick – and even worse, started making the mental errors, causing them start falling apart on the fundamental level.
Ah, but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. Obvious from the outset was that both coaches were going to concentrate on stopping the other’s running games and put the game in the hands of the quartrerbacks…
…and where the stage initially seemed too big for Kaepernick, it looked as comfortable as a well-worn recliner to Flacco.
The 49ers and the second year University of Nevada product appeared tight early in the game. On the first play of the game, they were flagged for illegal formation, and after a no gain by Frank Gore, Kaepernick and Gore were not on the same page, busting the 3rd down play.
After the Ravens forced Kaepernick and the 49ers into the three and out and Flacco got the ball for the first time on his own 49 after the San Francisco punt – he promptly established the Ravens on the scoreboard, going the 51 yards in 6 plays and hitting Anquan Boldin for 13 yards and a 7-0 lead.
San Francisco responded with a long drive for a field goal then after forcing a Baltimore punt, the 49ers sustained another long drive. In field goal position on the Baltimore 31 yard line, Niners running back LaMichael James fumbled and Baltimore’s Arthur Jones recovered at the Ravens 25.
Flacco went right to work, leading the Ravens down the field on a 10 play drive capped by a 1 yard pass from Flacco to a wide open Dennis Pitta and a 14-3 Ravens’ advantage. The next play from scrimmage after the kickoff, Kaepernick looked for wide receiver Randy Moss deep over the middle and was intercepted by Baltimore safety Ed Reed.
Keapernick was 16 of 28 for 308 yards and one touchdown to go with his interception. He also was effective on the ground, rushing 7 times for 62 yards out of the read option and scoring on a 15 yard scramble for what turned out to be San Francisco’s final score.
With the score 28-6 in favor of the Baltimore Ravens and 13:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter, a power surge knocked out half of the lighting in the Superdome and provided the reeling San Francisco 49ers just what they needed, a long respite to even out the momentum, with a chance to seize it when the lights came back on…
…which is exactly what they did. With 7:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the 49er’s offense clicking and sustaining a drive for the first time all game when Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for 31 yards, slicing the Ravens’ lead to 28-13.
The 49ers’ defense forced a Ravens three and out, Ted Ginn Jr. returning the ensuing punt to the Baltimore 20 yard line. Two plays later Frank Gore crashed into the end zone from 6 yards out and suddenly it was a one possession game. Again the San Francisco defense came up with a stop, this time forcing a Ray Rice fumble deep in Baltimore territory, but the Niners couldn’t cash in, settling for a David Akers field goal.
Flacco settled the Ravens down, sustaining a long drive that was stifled inside the 49ers’ one yard line and settling for a Justin Tucker 19 yard field goal to give Baltimore a 31-23 lead. But Kaepernick and the 49ers responded by driving 76 yards in five plays, capping the drive with Kaepernick’s 15 yard sprint down the left sideline…
…but his pass to Randy Moss for a two point conversion try couldn’t find the mark, leaving San Francisco still looking up at a 5 point deficit after the Ravens tacked on another field goal.
The stage was set for an epic finish. Kaepernick got the ball back with 4:19 left in the game, driving the 49ers down to the Baltimore seven yard line with just over two minutes remaining in the game…and that’s when things took a turn for the absurd.
After LaMichael James ran the ball down to the five yard line and the two minute warning sounded, the 49ers called three consecutive passing plays – all three to the right, all three to Michael Crabtree, all three defensed – the 4th down pass sailing over Crabtree’s head, igniting a controversy as Crabtree appeared to be held beyond the five yards that a defensive back can make contact with a receiver, but the pleas for a flag were drowned out by the Ravens celebration.
So Joe Flacco is finally what he told everyone he was. He is an elite quarterback, a champion and an MVP – and his success is tied into the Ravens’ management decision to make a change in offensive coordinators in early December.
Flacco was handcuffed by the offense earlier in the year, his cannon for an arm governed by an antiquated philosophy that a quarterback managed a game by handing the ball off and mixing in passes to keep the defenses honest - but when the team brought in new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, suddenly Flacco started showing off his arm – and he took a floundering team on his shoulders and led them to the Super Bowl.
And, more importantly, he led them through a power outage.