The older, wiser brother prevailed
Posted February 4, 2013
There are a lot of reasons why the Baltimore Ravens are celebrating their second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Joe Flacco was spectacular in backing up his claims at the beginning of the year that he belongs in the upper crust of NFL quarterbacks. Flacco is heading into his contract negotiations off an 11 touchdown, zero interception post season that included three first half scoring strikes in the Ravens' 34-31 win over the 49ers. He not only made no mistakes en route to being named the game's MVP, but he made some of his biggest plays when forced to improvise.
Baltimore's wide receivers, mainly 11-year veteran Anquan Boldin, were too much for the 49ers secondary. Boldin caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, most of which came as the Ravens were building a 21-6 halftime lead. Throw in the greatest two minutes in the history of the Super Bowl by Jacoby Jones and we can really kick it up a notch. In the interest of accuracy, it was really the greatest 1:56 ever as Baltimore's receiver/kick returner hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass with 1:45 left in the first half, then took the second half kickoff back 108 yards for a score just 11 seconds after intermission.
San Francisco certainly made more mistakes than the Ravens. LaMichael James' 2nd quarter fumble erased a momentum-building drive that saw the 49ers move from their own 20 to the Baltimore 24 in just four plays. Ten plays and 75 yards later, Baltimore had a 14-3 lead. Colin Kaepernick threw one interception – and was lucky to not have thrown a second – and while the Ravens didn't turn that into points thanks to John Harbaugh's curious decision to fake a short field goal, it started the field position chain of events that led to the Jones touchdown catch a couple of minutes before the half.
And, there were also a few very obvious missed calls by Jerome Boger's officiating crew that certainly could have impacted the game. In the interest of brevity, I'll only point to one. With the 49ers facing a third down and goal from the Ravens' 5-yard line Kaepernick threw into the right flat trying to hit Michael Crabtree. The pass was incomplete, partially because Crabtree couldn't hold on and partially because Baltimore defensive back Jimmy Smith crushed Crabtree with a helmet hit to the face mask. This is a penalty every single time in the NFL, except apparently on 3rd and goal with less than two minutes to play in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl. I honestly don't know how you miss that, but so be it. I don't think the Niners lost to the Ravens because the officials missed that call – or any others for that matter.
No, I truly believe the difference was in the Harbaughs. John's team was clearly more ready, early. They played with more poise and greater focus, especially in the first half. And, in spite of that decision to fake the short field goal and have your kicker try to run to gain the nine necessary yards, John coached with a clearer head than did his little brother. It seemed to me that Jim tried to out-think the Dome after San Fran found itself with a 2nd and 2 from the Baltimore 9-yard line just before halftime. Trailing 21-3, and knowing that the Ravens were getting the second half kickoff, you really needed to stick the ball in the end zone. Yet Jim got a bit conservative and when Kaepernick's roll-out to the right produced nothing, they had to settle for a field goal and a 15-point, Beyonce break deficit.
The same happened at the end of the game, after the 49ers reached the Baltimore 7-yard line roughly two minutes after starting at their own 20. Kaepernick's legs were such a weapon in the post season, and they were again tonight, yet the first play was a give to James straight ahead for a 2-yard pick-up. Were the 49ers trying to score or run time off the clock? If you're running the ball up the middle, you had better be handing it to your best guy, Frank Gore, not the guy who fumbled the ball earlier in the game. Three plays later, the game was essentially over and the 49ers lack of success inside the 10-yard line was very much the reason why the Vince Lombardi Trophy is going back to Charm City.
It was a night that had just about everything. We saw a quarterback making a case for a big-money contract, costly turnovers, huge plays in the passing game, a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, an unsuccessful fake field goal, an intentional safety, one replay reversal and a 34-minute blackout caused by a power surge not long after Beyonce and her, well, talented friends left the stage. However, my view is that even though John called his younger brother Jim, "the best coach in the NFL," I think the biggest difference was that the older brother wasn't ready to give in to the little kid, just yet.
Tonight, like the older brother he is, John gets to choose between the top or bottom bunk. Too bad he didn't give Jim a noogie during the post game handshake.