"Ain't about redemption. Ain't about that. It's a business. The Texans gave me my chance out of Lane College, and now I'm a champion." -- Jacoby Jones
On a night where the only thing standing between Jacoby Jones and the Super Bowl MVP award being a yeoman's performance from Joe Flacco was the second weirdest thing to happen (the 34-minute blackout was the weirdest thing to happen in Super Bowl history, hands down), we should have seen this coming.
Turns out that picking the 49ers in a season where the Ravens owner died, the Ravens starting wide receiver's brother died, their inspirational leader (O.J. Brigance) is dying of ALS, and their marquee player announced his retirement just before the postseason, wound up being prognosticating suicide.
On Sunday night, the Ravens bid Ray Lewis farewell with a heart-pounding 34-31 win over the 49ers. Big brother Harbaugh beat little brother Harbaugh in a game that will be remembered as much for its lack of electricity (literally) as it will for its electricity (figuratively).
There were winners, there were losers. Let's go back, shall we?
WINNERS 4. Jacoby Jones Hard to find a guy who's had their playoff legacy flip 180 degrees faster and more pronounced than Jacoby Jones. He was run out of Houston on a rail last offseason, garbage scattered about his lawn, and with thousands of people offering to pack his bags (present writing company included). One year later, he is setting a Super Bowl record for total yards in a game (292 yards) and making the biggest plays in the biggest game of the season -- a 56-yard catch, tumble, hop up, and run to go up 21-6 and a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that wound up being the biggest play of the game, given the final margin of victory. It was the Ravens only touchdown of the second half.
3. Ray Lewis Honestly, for most of the night, Lewis was one of the worst players on the field, a complete liability in coverage and missing numerous tackles. However, this is truly a case where a win will rewrite history, and much like Lewis gets a pass for the two murders in Atlanta in 2000, and the deer antler spray accusations this past week, no one will talk about Lewis going out with an individual whimper. It'll be all about the images of him holding the trophy and screaming about God.
2. Anquan Boldin Twenty-two catches, 380 yards, and four touchdowns this postseason. Boldin rarely gets mentioned in the same breath as guys like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, or even his former teammate (the statistically pedestrian) Larry Fitzgerald, but if you had a jump ball right now that your life depended on and you needed a receiver to come down with it, would you not take Boldin? I would.
1. Joe Flacco Eleven touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a 124.2 passer rating in the biggest game of his career. Joe Flacco is about to get paid, and he's made the team picture for "elite quarterbacks or those making a claim to be elite" that much more crowded. Since 2003, we've had seven different quarterbacks win a Super Bowl and all can claim with a straight face that they're "elite" -- Brady (twice), Roethlisberger (twice), Peyton, Eli (twice), Brees, Rodgers, and now Flacco, who was unreal this postseason.
LOSERS 4. 49er opening acts A penalty on the first play of the game (a 20-yard gain, by the way), a penalty on third down to keep the Ravens first drive alive; this game looked eerily similar to the beginning of the Texans-Patriots game back in December. That one ended 42-14. Thankfully for the 49ers, they have the gumption to pull out of a tailspin, but their slow starts finally cost them on Sunday. 3. 49ers finale The 49ers did a fantastic job for most of the game driving between the 20-yard lines. But there's something about Colin Kaepernick's explosiveness and the qualities that make him the "new wave" of quarterback that work better on a longer field. We've seen it with Michael Vick for a number of years, and like Vick, Kaepernick feels like a bigger threat around midfield than he does in close. We saw it continually in this game with three David Akers field goals and the turnover on downs at the end of the game. (By the way, the tone for that series of downs was set on first down when Jim Harbaugh oddly went with a handoff up the middle to LaMichael James at the seven-yard line. Felt like a total "give up" play.)
2. LaMichael James Early in the second quarter, the 49ers had weathered the early storm of big Raven pass plays and their own mistakes. Their pass rush was getting to Joe Flacco, and momentum had noticeably changed, to the point where everyone in my row of the press area agreed -- momentum had changed! (And if the press rubber stamps it, by God, it's gotta be true!) And then LaMichael James, in trying to make the extra spin and eke out another yard got popped by Courtney Upshaw, fumbled, and Arthur Jones recovered. Ten plays later, the Ravens were up 14-3 on their way to a 21-6 halftime lead.
1. Jim Harbaugh (NOTE: I'm going with Harbaugh here because I have more salient points to make about him, but know that Chris Culliver is the easy lock for this spot. What a Godawful week that guy had, on every level.) Putting Harbaugh in the "loser" category may be a bit strong. I mean, the guy has won two division titles and lost in the NFC title game and Super Bowl in his first two seasons as an NFL coach. The guy is good.
But his team didn't look ready to play, really from the beginning of warmups (at least compared to a Ravens team that had a noticeable hop in their step), and it played out that way with two crucial penalties in the first quarter leading to early momentum going the Ravens way. Then toward the end of the game, he burned a timeout to settle his team down before third down at the 5-yard line. Honestly, delay of game would have been better than burning what amounts to a coupon for 40 seconds there. One more time out was the difference between a last-gasp kickoff return and a final look at the end zone. Not a great night for one of the best in the league.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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