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Monday, February 4, 2013

LIGHTS OUT!

Another NFL season is in the books and for the second time in NFL history, the Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl champions. This game offered a little of everything: big offensive plays, huge defensive efforts, game breaking special teams, a big comeback and a game-deciding fourth down and goal play. As has been the case in recent years, the Super Bowl was super. 


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DICTATING THE TEMPO


The team scoring first in the Super Bowl has won the Super Bowl most of the time. When a team jumps up by 22 points or more, as the Ravens did, they’ve never lost. The Ravens hit the 49ers with deep passes, stingy red zone defense and forced turnovers in the first half. The 49ers were unable to convert either of their drives deep into Ravens territory and were stonewalled before halftime.


In the pass-friendly NFL, with an explosive and dynamic quarterback like Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, a 21-6 halftime deficit is not necessarily the kiss of death. The 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones to start the second half could have been. With the momentum completely shifted to Baltimore in the third quarter and the Niners on their way out of the game in spirit, though not in body, Colin Kapernick played lights out. But before he played lights out, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome went lights out…literally.


Beyonce' and her halftime performance were hot! The second half could have used some of her illumination. 1

LIGHTING UP THE STADIUM


A problem involving a breaker caused the electricity in the Superdome to fail, causing half of the lights in the stadium to shut off. The power outage caused a delay of roughly 30 minutes in the Super Bowl. To say the stoppage in play could have decided the outcome of the game would be hyperbole. To say that it had no impact would be naïve.


The Ravens had the 49ers on football-life-support. Down 22 points in the second half and having never scored a touchdown in the game, I am not unconvinced that a sense of panic set in among some of the 49ers. The momentum was completely on the side of the Ravens. The half-hour stoppage in play gave the 49ers an unexpected opportunity to settle down, shake off the panic, go back to the drawing board, and restart their second half game plan. It may have helped the Niners; it did not help the Ravens.


The 49ers got into the end zone on their next full possession following the blackout on a 31 yard bomb from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree. Then, capitalizing on a big punt return by Ted Ginn, Jr., the 49ers quickly got back into the end zone on a run by Frank Gore. Score: 28-20. Ballgame: up for grabs.

The Superdome had some Ravens fans and some 49ers fans, but the power outage in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII give a new maning to "a house divided". 3

FURIOUS FOURTH QUARTER


What transpired in the fourth quarter was a back-and-forth chess match that demonstrated why both of these teams were in Super Bowl XLVII in the first place. The Ravens could have melted under the warm glow of the red hot 49ers, as the Ravens were forced back on their heels almost immediately following Gore’s touchdown as Ray Rice lost a fumble just two plays into their ensuing possession. The Ravens stopped the Niners cold, only surrendering a field goal and holding on to a five point lead heading into the fourth quarter.


The Ravens answered the 49ers field goal. The 49ers rebutted with a swift 5 play, 76 yard touchdown drive capped with a 15 yard scoring run by Kaepernick. A failed two point conversion following the Kaepernick touchdown left the Ravens with a two point lead. After another clutch Justin Tucker field goal by Baltimore, Super Bowl XLVII was set for as exciting a final four minutes as any fan could ask for.


CHESS MATCH


Buoyed by a 33 yard gallop by 49ers running back Frank Gore, the 49ers were seven yards away from pulling off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. With two 49ers timeouts remaining, it will remain a mystery to me why a star running back like Gore never touched the ball again. The Niners attempted three rushed passes into the end zone for Michael Crabtree, the last of which was on fourth and goal with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh lobbying for a defensive penalty that would never be called. The Ravens managed the clock so that the 49ers would not run another offensive play and the Ravens became champions.   




  Jim Harbaugh wanted a flag on the incomplete fourth and goal pass. Wish in one hand; crap in the other and see which one fills up first, Jim. 4


FINAL STORYLINES

Bro Bowl I – Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh versus younger brother Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach of the 49ers, went to big brother. Future Hall of Fame Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis joined a very small fraternity of superstar American athletes like John Elway and Michael Jordan who retired after winning a championship. Joe Flacco’s stock rose closer to the top among NFL quarterbacks with his MVP performance. Future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, who will be a free agent in the coming offseason, punctuated his tenure in Baltimore with a championship.


The 49ers came up short but with their roster and their youth, I expect this team to be a perpetual contender for years to come. I expect Kapernick to become exponentially better in the coming years. I expect the 49ers, who have more than ten picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, to acquire even better player personnel next year. This team is going to be a force in the NFC for quite some time.


Brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, opposing coaches in Super Bowl XLVII, embrace at the end. 5


NEXT YEAR


Football fans have four seasons: preseason, regular season, postseason, and next season (or the offseason). Next year is here. More than any other American team sport, football is the closest to a true year round sport. There will be free agent acquisitions, the scouting combine, and the draft to occupy football fans until late April. This will lead into volunteer organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps followed by training camp. And the cycle begins anew.


Until “next year”, the last live bullets we will have to remember were in yesterday’s dramatic Super Bowl. That final image is of a championship being won. Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens.

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1) Image from www.ibtimes.com
2) Image from www.upi.com
3) Image from www.foxnews.com
4) Image from www.denverpost.com
5) Image from the Associated Press via www.huffingtonpost.com

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