It’s been three days since the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. Somehow, I managed to end up at a friend’s house without HD for the game. I left with a headache and sore eyes. Thus, I had to re-watch the game before I could comment. Here are three thoughts. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin
Joe Flacco was undoubtedly the Super Bowl MVP, Playoff MVP, and the Ravens MVP. He was fantastic for four straight games. If I told you Ray Rice would essentially disappear during the playoffs and finish with more fumbles than touchdowns, you’d assume the Ravens lost in the Wildcard round. While the defense was superb in the AFC Championship game, Flacco was the one who carried the Ravens to Super Bowl XLVII and ultimately won it for them, too. I’m not sure where it ranks historically, but Flacco’s postseason line of 1,140 yards, 11 TDs, and 0 INTs is better than Aaron Rodgers’ 2010 playoff run, Eli Manning’s 2011 campaign, and perhaps even slightly better than the tear Drew Brees went on in the 2009 postseason. We’ve heard all about how amazing Flacco has been throughout the past month, but I still don’t think we appreciate what he did this postseason.
And with that said, let’s not forget the men (Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones), and most importantly, the man, that made Flacco’s playoff run possible; Anquan Boldin. Flacco deserved every bit of praise he’s received, but if they gave out a Robin MVP to Flacco’s Batman MVP, Boldin would be the unquestioned winner. How many times did Flacco toss a jump ball in Boldin’s direction? More importantly, how many times did Boldin come down with the reception? The answer: every. single. time.
Prior to the Super Bowl Randy Moss decided to proclaim himself the best ever even though he notoriously takes plays off, whines when things don’t go his way, and never goes across the middle for an errant pass that could get him killed. Boldin is exactly the opposite. Boldin broke his jaw a few years ago competing for a ball in traffic, which led then quarterback Kurt Warner to question whether he could play after witnessing such an injury.
Boldin wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or most famous receiver in the postseason, but he was undoubtedly the best. When Flacco needed a big 3rd down conversion, a reliable red zone target, or someone he knew would make a big play, he went to Boldin. And like he’s done throughout his career, Boldin came through. Joe Flacco was Baltimore’s MVP, but he’s not in position to win MVP, or even a Super Bowl, without Anquan Boldin.
49ers Play Calling
It wasn’t Jim Harbaugh’s greatest game as a head coach, but that’s what happens when you play most of the game from behind. You’re desperate, you’re flustered, you’re whole system is thrown off. Besides, it was clear Colin Kaepernick didn’t have his “A” game from the start, so Harbaugh was an Ace short of a full deck. Still, I thought the 49ers should have punished the Ravens on the ground more and worked the football to Vernon Davis in anyway possible. But worst of all, and this ultimately cost San Francisco the game, was Harbaugh’s red zone offense.
The 49ers finished 2/6 in the red zone and 0/1 on two point conversions. I’m not sure how this happens when your quarterback is the most athletically gifted player on the field. This drives me crazy about Cam Newton and the Panthers, too. With guys like Kaepernick, Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson, chaos is an overwhelming advantage. When Harbaugh had Kaepernick throw three quick passes on San Francisco’s final possession when a touchdown would have given them a late lead, I nearly pulled my hair out. Having Kaepernick (who is still not a great pocket passer just yet) hurling the football on two step drops is equivalently to limiting Albert Pujols to one pitch or demanding LeBron James can’t pass the basketball.
I know as a fan, I’m most scared of quarterbacks like Kaepernick when a play breaks down. I’m sure opposing defenses feel the same. Instincts take over and the best athlete often comes out on top. Harbuagh had four plays and the most explosive talent on the field to move the football seven yards. He took the ball out of Kaerpnick’s hands on 1st down. Rolled him out of the pocket (and thus trapping him to sideline) on 2nd down, and had him get rid of the ball within 2 seconds of the snap on 3rd and 4th down. Baltimore’s defense was scrambling against the 49ers for most of the 4th quarter. They had no answer for Kaepernick’s speed. Harbaugh played right into their hands on those final four plays and it may have cost him a Super Bowl title.
(And by the way, the 49ers need to shut up about being the better team. Better teams don’t find themselves in double-digit 2nd half holes in consecutive weeks. And better teams get critical stops when necessary. The 49er defense allowed Baltimore two critical field goals on time-eating drives in the 4th quarter. And please don’t bring up the pass interference call. It was half as brutal as the call the officials ignored when Navorro Bowman mugged Roddy White in a similar situation two weeks ago in the NFC title game.)
I’ve enjoyed reading and watching all the coverage regarding the Harbaugh brothers, who are separated by 15 months, because they’re exactly like my brother and I. (My brother and I are about 20 months apart. I’m the older brother.)
Prior to the game, John (the older Harbaugh brother) constantly shared how difficult it would be to beat his brother in the Super Bowl. Following the game (a game John won), John spoke openly about how awful he felt meeting his brother for the post game handshake. Even in the postgame press conference, John couldn’t help but praise his brother.
It’s instinctual for a big brother. (Well, at least a grown up big brother.) You do what’s best for your little brother, because regardless of age, size, talent, wealth, whatever… you always try to protect him, even long after he needs you.
I dreaded beating my brother. It made me feel bad. I hated seeing him upset about losing, and letting him win only made it worse. (Note: I almost never win anymore. I blame my kids, ice cream, and ungodly amounts of soda.)
I legitimately enjoy seeing my brother excited about winning. When we watch sporting events pitting our teams against one another, I root for my team but I’m never upset about his team winning. When my team wins, things get reeeal quiet; I’m not sure if he’s gonna kick me, punch me, or slash my tires.
Right after the Super Bowl ended, I received this text from my brother regarding the postgame handshake; “If that were you and I, I would have given you a high five and nothing more until our next family function.” I laughed. That’s exactly what would have happened.
Had Jim won the Super Bowl, John likely would have come back out to celebrate his brother’s accomplishment, and I would have, too. But after John won, Jim was too upset to waste any time gushing over his big brother, and rightfully so.
A little brother’s competiveness is a fascinating thing, and the passion driving it is only equaled by a big brother’s instinct to protect.
Your breakdown of the brothers was perfect. Little brothers relish every opportunity to beat older brothers. It’s why we gloat when we win, and make it awkward when we lose. We are expected to lose, which makes us all the more driven to win. And when it doesn’t happen we are beyond disappointed. I think much of it revolves around validating our status in the eyes of the older brothers (yeah it’s ridiculous). And it was displayed on point by both John and Jim.