WASHINGTON – Retiring Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had it all wrong with the use of his “no weapon” phrase recently. Not because it’s out of context, but because he worded it incorrectly.
What he should have said is “new weapon.” And his name is Joe Flacco.
For the second season in a row, we had a guy sit down in an interview and tell the world he’s elite without the resume to back it up. And for the second time, that quarterback was mocked for it, and ultimately got the last laugh once he went about proving his elite status over the course of the season en route to a Super Bowl title.
Last year that was Eli Manning. This year, it’s Flacco — who only went out and threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Not only did he outduel the red-hot Colin Kaepernick, but there was no doubt he was the best quarterback on the field. It took a ridiculous 34- minute delay in the third quarter to stop Baltimore’s momentum, and even then Flacco didn’t do anything that would cost the Ravens the title (he finished the playoffs without throwing a single interception).
Truthfully, the Ravens had many heroes in this game. Playing in his home state, Ed Reed had a key first-half interception. Ray Lewis was credited with seven tackles in his swan song. Anquan Boldin muscled his way to six catches for 104 yards and the game’s first TD. Jacoby Jones had what could very well be the game of his life.
In fact, you could argue that Jones, a New Orleans native, should have been the MVP of this game. He set a Super Bowl record with 290 total yards, which included a 56-yard touchdown on offense and an NFL-record, 108-yard TD on a kick return (it also goes down as the longest play of any kind in Super Bowl history). Typically, that kind of performance would garner MVP honors, but in this quarterback-centric NFL, you’d have to do something otherworldly to steal the show from a highly productive QB.
Regardless of whether he deserved the MVP (and I’m not necessarily saying he doesn’t), Flacco silenced his critics in New Orleans. You can no longer ask if he can win the big one. You can’t debate whether he can lead this team. In fact, with Lewis gone and Reed perhaps going, he’s going to be the face of this new age of Ravens football. He can walk into his contract negotiations with his hat to the back, knowing full well he’s proven his mettle.
In addition to doing a solid to all big brothers everywhere (myself included), John Harbaugh also proved in beating little brother Jim that he’s an elite-level NFL coach. He had his team ready to play and managed the game well, even with the long delay in the third quarter.
Speaking of which, that 34-minute Superdome power outage was one of the most embarrassing things to ever happen to a Super Bowl city. Regardless of the reasons behind it, it made New Orleans look unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the biggest sporting event in the country. There’s a good chance that’s the last Super Bowl we see in the Crescent City for a good long while. But I digress.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my cap to the Niners, who used a 25-6 run after the power outage to get back in the game. They showed heart, and the ability to go toe-to-toe with anybody in any situation. They’re almost destined to be back in this game again (although, we said the same thing about the Packers two years ago, and we’re still waiting for them to even get close to returning to the Super Bowl).
Baltimore earned this. They overcame long odds, death and an assortment of injuries to win their second Super Bowl title. And in the process, they established themselves as one of the great organizations in the league, rife with great leadership and a few good, young building blocks for the future. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. The Ravens were almost on the wrong side of the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, but in the greatest of ironies, the defense had a goal-line stand at the end of Lewis’ final game to clinch a championship.