By the Numbers - Super Bowl XLVII

It’s hard to cover off everything in a game as action-packed and dramatic as Super Bowl 47 but here goes as we look back on a just a few of the key moments that resulted in the Baltimore Ravens recording a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

We have to begin the Blackout Bowl examination with the power outage (I guess that’s a power cut to us Brits) itself. The Ravens led 28-6 early in the third quarter and had all the momentum following Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return touchdown to start the second half.

And then the lights went out… for 34 long and painful minutes.

It led to some surreal scenes inside the dimly-lit Superdome. Ed Reed was working the Baltimore fans into a frenzy, there were players sprawled all over the field stretching in preparation for the re-start and I spotted a couple of 49ers virtually lying down on the bench and stifling big yawns.

Up in our television booths, we lost everything – pictures on our monitor, power for the cameras, communication with our truck outside the stadium – everything. We knew we had lost contact with our viewers in the UK and there was not a darn thing we could do about it.

And we knew the power was not coming back on any time soon. We were told as much by stadium security officials. Mind you, it might have been funny if we did suddenly start broadcasting live again from New Orleans.

Kevin Cadle was eating a hot dog during the break, an overjoyed Vernon Kay was virtually dancing around our desk following Jones’ touchdown, Cecil Martin was tucking into some snacks and I was stood outside our studio chatting about the absurdity of the situation with Mark Chapman, who was supposed to be in his own television booth presenting the action for the BBC.

When the power was restored, the lights came on for the 49ers as they stormed back behind some impressive quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick.

In the opening half of Super Bowl 47, I thought that Kaepernick looked like a second-year quarterback making just his 10th NFL start for the 49ers. There were times when he was off target with throws and he appeared indecisive at times. While he wowed occasionally with a bullet strike, I thought the game was proving too big for him.

But he was truly sensational after the break and he too was extremely accurate with the football. Kaepernick ended up throwing for 302 yards and one touchdown. He also dazzled with his running skills, scoring on a 15-yard run.

In the end, the game came down to one final defensive stand from the Ray Lewis-led Ravens. The 49ers – behind a big run from Frank Gore – had three chances to score from the Baltimore 5-yard line and I felt they let themselves down with some strange decisions at this crucial stage of the game.

Jim Harbaugh chose to call three straight passing plays that fell incomplete when it might have been more prudent to give Gore at least one carry or have Kaepernick keep one himself.

While I question the 49ers play-calling in the final moments of this thrilling Super Bowl, I do have to tip my hat to Baltimore’s defensive effort, particularly the play of cornerback Jimmy Smith, who made two nice plays against Michael Crabtree.

The second of those should have been called for defensive holding, according to Jim Harbaugh. I disagree. First, there was contact on the play and, by the letter of the law, it could have been called. But I want players to decide games, not officials. Therefore, I am glad the official kept his flag in his pocket. Second, I’m not sure how catchable that ball was – I think Crabtree would have had a hard time hauling it in anyway.

I’ll have more on this Super Bowl below. Just to go back to the power outage one final time – could you imagine the fun the conspiracy theorists would have had if the 49ers had completed their comeback to win, especially as the power went out on their side of the stadium?

11-0… Joe Flacco was the deserving Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 47, although you could make a case for the playmaking skills of Jacoby Jones. Flacco delivered some incredibly accurate throws, extended plays with his feet and found just enough offensive production in the second half when all the momentum was with the 49ers. After throwing 3 touchdowns in the Super Bowl, Flacco completed one of the best post-seasons in league history. He finished the playoffs with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His 11 scoring strikes tied an NFL playoff record set by Tom Brady and Kurt Warner. Flacco has produced Joe Montana-like numbers in Baltimore’s seemingly-improbable run to championship glory. Flacco was helped by his offensive line again on Sunday night but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the arm strength and the way he put the ball right on the money time and again. It was clear we were watching a quarterback playing at the very peak of his confidence. For the second year in a row, the Super Bowl has been won by a quarterback who genuinely believes he is one of the best in the business and has received criticism for that confidence. Last year it was Eli Manning and this time around it was Flacco. Actually, Flacco doesn’t think he’s one of the best in the game – he has that belief that he is the very best. I don’t believe that but he’s the Super Bowl champion as I write this column from New York’s JFK airport on Monday night and I’m happy to leave it at that.

835… That’s how many yards the two teams racked up in Super Bowl 47. The Ravens gained 367 total yards while the 49ers gained 468 yards. That game is an indication of where the NFL is heading with teams looking to pack their rosters with exciting, speedy offensive playmakers who can create mismatches against the defense. Let’s not kid ourselves – these are two pretty defenses featuring players like Lewis, Ed Reed, Novorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. There were actually some decent defensive players made in this game. But this Super Bowl was just an indication that offenses are too powerful to be completely held down in today’s NFL.

2-41… I said during our Super Bowl Preview Show that Randy Moss was not fit to lace Jerry Rice’s boots. A bit harsh, I know. But I also know that Moss is not the greatest wide receiver in NFL history and his comments during Super Bowl week amounted to little more than misguided self-promotion. That honour clearly belongs to Rice. I mentioned Rice’s work ethic on Sunday’s show and Kevin leapt to Randy’s defense in passionate style, claiming that people always bang on about work ethic but he would take 100 Randy Mosses and their talent. But that was not the issue. We were not discussing Moss’ talent – we were responding to his claims to be the best ever. Would anyone really take 100 Randy Mosses over 100 Jerry Rices? I wouldn’t. As for this game, there were too many times when Moss didn’t even look like he wanted to be on the field (stop me if you’ve heard that one before). He proved to be a total non-factor with 2 catches for 41 yards and I now expect he will head back into retirement. Right now, he still trails Jerry Rice by three Super Bowls to nil.

Monday Musings…

  • Anquan Boldin continues to amaze me with his strength and ability to out-muscle defenders when the ball is in the air. He is not a Calvin Johnson-type but Boldin has incredible strength and there is probably not a stronger pair of hands in the NFL. He has this uncanny ability to keep hold of the ball, even when defensive backs are trying to knock it from his grasp. Boldin caught 6 passes for 104 yards and 1 touchdown on Sunday night, continuing his outstanding form in the playoffs. Given his age and expected high wage bill in 2013, there is some uncertainty about Boldin’s future in Baltimore. I say they have to find a way to keep him on the roster. He is too valuable to Flacco and this entire team, particularly on third downs.
  • Don’t be surprised if Super Bowl 47 represents the end of the road for David Akers in San Francisco. He didn’t ‘actually’ miss a field goal in Sunday’s Super Bowl… but he kind of did. Akers, who missed an NFL-high 13 field goals during the regular season, missed a 39-yard effort in the third quarter but was given the chance to convert from 34 yards out following a running into the kicker penalty. He duly converted but Akers is just too shaky to be kept around by a coach as ruthless as Jim Harbaugh. Some very good young kickers are coming into the NFL now – Greg Zeurlein (Rams), Blair Walsh (Vikings) and Justin Tucker (Ravens) – and I can picture Harbaugh going and getting himself a younger kicker in similar fashion in the later rounds of April’s Draft.
  • I paid tribute to Ozzie Newsome in the final moments of our broadcast on Sunday night but the Ravens general manager is now going to have his work cut out to keep his star men on the roster. We know all about the retirement of Ray Lewis, but there are other key players about to hit free agency. Flacco is going to want to get paid Peyton Manning or Drew Brees-like money and the Ravens would do well to avoid the bitter taste that will be in their quarterback’s mouth if he is slapped with the franchise tag. For the record, there is no way the Ravens let Flacco out of town. Others who might be harder to keep due to financial limitations are linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, and cornerback Cary Williams.

Final Thought

So that’s it… the season is over. It’s gone into the history books as another great one, filled with dramatic headlines, shock results, breath-taking examples of skill and some rather amusing moments… I’m talking to you there Mark Sanchez! The season was capped with a Super Bowl that perfectly encapsulated the Ravens’ entire season – good at the start, very shaky down the stretch and then great at the end! The 2012 season was packed with memorable moments – the emergence of mobile young quarterbacks in Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, Chuck Pagano’s fight with leukemia, the Colts going from the worst team in the NFL to a playoff club and another successful, sold out game at Wembley Stadium between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots in October. And 2013 offers so much more, particularly for fans on this side of the shore. We will have off-season programming on Sky Sports throughout the spring and summer, focusing on the Wembley-bound Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, we will also have live coverage of round one of the NFL Draft. Our two games at Wembley Stadium are already sold out and more NFL Fan Evenings – off the back of their success in January – are planned in the off-season. It remains an exciting time to be a British NFL fan. Thanks so much for reading this column this season, for downloading the Inside the Huddle podcast and for tuning in to Sky Sports. It remains an honour and a privilege to cover what is clearly the most exciting sports league in the world. Is it really seven months until the 2013 season begins? Oh well, that should just about be enough time to catch up on my sleep!

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