Super Bowl analysis
Sky Sports reporter Paul Higham looks back at what was a memorable conclusion to the NFL season in New Orleans.
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 07/02/13 11:57am
Well, well, well, how do you try and sum up this week at the Super Bowl in New Orleans?
It was quite fitting that the city celebrated a 10th staging of the event with one of the most memorable games in recent history.
Whilst many of the fans from both the 49ers and the Ravens may not remember everything that went on at night in the French Quarter and especially on Bourbon Street, they will never forget the night the lights went out in the Superdome and San Francisco almost pulled off the biggest comeback in history.
Here's my conclusions from a truly wonderful week at the Super Bowl...
The Big Easy
Firstly, hats off to the hosts. It's the 10th Super Bowl for 'N'awlens' - as I think you pronounce it - and you can see just why as it's probably the perfect place for such an event. Great weather, great stadium and even better nightlife.
We've all heard about Katrina, but even without that it still would have been given five stars by me, friendly, helpful people, great food (including alligator) and some real character means I can't wait to come back! There was also what seemed the world's largest convention centre as well.
The Ravens edged this one just as they did the game, both in numbers and volume. There were more Ravens, they arrived earlier in the week and they shouted louder in the Superdome, the 49ers did turn out in force for the game, but they just about came second best.
The power cut!
Unbelievable scenes in the third quarter as some of the lights went off due to a power cut, maybe due to Beyonce using up all the electricity on her half-time show. The 49rs needed the break, though, and responded with a 17-point burst to get them right back into the game.
There would have been uproar had the 35-minute break resulted in the Ravens' big advantage being overturned, but luckily for Superdome officials it wasn't and the worst the crowd got was booing a corner section for not continuing the Mexican wave.
Ravens claim Super Bowl glory
The MVP/The contract
Onto the game, and Joe Flacco, despite having a spell of 84 minutes off the field due to various aforementioned stoppages, led the Ravens to victory and will head to Disneyland after winning the vote for MVP after his three-TD game.
It's well deserved for Flacco who still had his doubters despite his blossoming five-year career and multiple road wins in the play-offs - he now has more of those than anyone else. He also threw 11 TDs without an interception in a stellar post-season performance.
What's interesting is that Flacco's contract is up for renewal after the end of the season, and with every touchdown pass in New Orleans you could almost hear the dollar bills piling up in Baltimore's front office as they prepare to 'show him the money'.
The last ride
So Ray Lewis rides off into the sunset with a second Super Bowl ring after helping with a late defensive stand to claim the Super Bowl for the Baltimore Ravens - the only team of his 17-year NFL career - somehow you just knew it would happen.
A career-threatening injury, and early return, two surprise road upset wins and the 'team of destiny' rolled into New Orleans, and not even a very good 49ers team or a deer antler steroid story was going to stop Lewis having his moment in the sun.
Lewis does divide opinion over here, he's got his own demons in his chequered past and it is felt he does tend to preach on a bit, but he's been a brilliant servant to the Ravens both on the field and in the community and as the face of the franchise will be always be synonymous with the Ravens.
Older brother John got the better of Jim in their sibling rivalry played out in front of over 100 million. The post-game handshake was awkward at best - John described it as horrible later on - and the pain of losing a Super Bowl is going to haunt super-competitive Jim for a long time to come.
Thankfully the 49ers got back into the game to avoid a rout, and both teams did credit to their coaches in their full-blooded attack of the game and their never-say-die attitudes, especially Jim's 49ers.
John failed in a fake field goal attempt which didn't cost him in the end but Jim did waste a timeout which could have been crucial late on, but there was nothing really more either man could have done - apart from Jim could have come out straight away and spoken to TV instead of refusing to leave the locker room at first.
Jacoby Jones breaks away from his 108-yard kick-off return
You can just look at a straight Flacco/Kaepernick comparison and suggest the younger man's inexperience was the difference, but that's too simple and I though the Niners man responded well to some obvious nerves in just his tenth ever start.
A slow start cost the 49ers, as did their failure to execute on some crucial big plays, all of which add up in such a big game despite their comeback which they must get huge credit for, but Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin can be singled out for special praise.
Boldin has blossomed into an amazing receiver in the post-season, he's not tall, he's not quick, but he is as tough as they come, he can bully any cornerback and wins almost every jump ball that comes his way - he was there time and time again for Flacco during the Super Bowl and really made a huge difference.
In a game which is usually decided by small margins, special teams can come into play and Jones' return speed saw him rip off a Super Bowl record 108 yards kick-off return TD at the start of the second half, such a crucial time to score.
The 49ers have been poor on special teams all season, and it cost them in the biggest game of all, not only with that but with punter Sam Koch later dancing around the end zone for a safety and running valuable seconds off the clock for the Ravens. John Harbugh used to be a special teams coach and that may have just won him the Super Bowl.
As for Jones, he also took a great catch, bounced back up and beat two defenders for his second touchdown, he may have only had two really big plays, but they were REALLY big plays, and won his team the Super Bowl - I'd have given him MVP.
If you can try and sum up the Super Bowl experience this week, you'd need a lot longer! Great weather, great stadium (when the power's on) and a wonderful game to cap it all off, out of five Super Bowls this must go down as the best so far - New York has a lot to live up to next year!
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