In the darkness on the field, Ray Lewis’ last ride looked all but guaranteed to end with a Lombardi Trophy. And even though the Baltimore Ravens held on to win 34-31, the San Francisco 49ers made it a game to remember outside of the electrical failures.
As the New Orleans Superdome descended into darkness, it appeared that what appeared to be one of the most interesting Super Bowl matchups in years was actually turning into a Ravens romp. After an emotional singing of “God Bless America” by students from Sandy Hook Elementary, the most emotional man in football’s team was leading 28-6.
Joe Flacco earned Super Bowl MVP honors by turning in a 22-37 performance for 287 yards and 3 TDs, all while managing to elude an almost-constant pass rush while only being sacked twice. Although Jim Caldwell’s offense was expected to try to wear the 49ers down physically to set up the pass, much like they did throughout the playoffs, the Ravens scored their first touchdown on a 13-yard seam route to Anquan Boldin in a 5-wide formation to take advantage of the 49ers’ reluctance to leave their base defense.
Colin Kaepernick began the game looking hesitant, as would be expected by a quarterback making only his tenth career start, but took the 49ers down the field on the second possession by finding Michael Crabtree and feeding Frank Gore. A Paul Kruger sack stalled the drive, and San Francisco settled for a field goal to make the score 7-3.
On the ensuing possession, Flacco managed to dodge Ahmad Brooks multiple times until Ray McDonald finally sacked him on third down to knock the Ravens out of field goal range. But the 49ers were unable to capitalize due to a fumble caused by Courtney Upshaw while rookie running back LaMichael James tried to extend a doomed running play.
Ravens power-back Bernard Pierce powered the Ravens down the field and then Flacco found tight end Dennis Dixon for 23 yards on a crossing route underneath four verticals that created space against the 49ers quarters coverage. Then Flacco faked a handoff to Ray Rice, drawing down linebacker Navarro Bowman to open up tight end Dennis Pitta on the seam route for a touchdown to extend the lead to 14-3.
On the first play of the next drive, Kapernick tried to force a throw to Randy Moss on a deep-in route, but overthrew the ball while trying to squeeze it into triple coverage and Ed Reed came down with the interception. Again, the Ravens came out pounding the ball down the field with Bernard Pierce but faced a fourth down and long in the red zone and were forced to try a field goal.
But John Harbaugh, himself a former special teams coordinator, dialed up a fake field goal. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker took the direct snap and took off to the left. A Dixon block almost sprang Tucker, but he came up just a foot short of the first down.
With his back up against the wall, deep in his own territory, Kaepernick continued to look uncomfortable in the pocket and hesitant to pull the trigger. Moss ran a comeback route at the first down marker on second down, and the ball was late coming out. Instead of fighting for the ball, Moss waited for it to arrive, allowing cornerback Carey Williams to almost come up with another Baltimore interception. Jim Harbaugh decided to run on third down and play it safe, and the 49ers again punted.