(Long Island, N.Y.) Five yards. That was the difference in the outcome of the game and, ultimately, who would be named MVP. Both quarterbacks played well, but Joe Flacco was better in leading the Baltimore Ravens to a hard-fought 34-31 win in Super Bowl XVLII. Colin Kaepernick bravely led the San Francisco 49ers on an improbable second half comeback, but the 22-point disadvantage proved to be insurmountable.
Although the momentum had swung entirely towards the Niners, it was the vaunted Ravens defense that came up big in the final two minutes in New Orleans. With four opportunities to get into the end zone from the Baltimore five yard line, San Francisco ran out of magic and the Lombardi Trophy would be on its way to Maryland.
“I think that it’s fitting that we won that way,” said Flacco, who finished the entire postseason without throwing a single interception and went 22-for-33, 287 yards and three touchdowns. “We are a tough, blue-collar city and that’s the way our games kind of come down. We were up 28-6 and I’m sure a lot of people were nervous, but they were kind of like, ‘This one might be pretty easy.’ And the next thing you know, the Niners get right back into it and play great football and we had to grind it out.”
Kaepernick, who began the season as Alex Smith’s backup and nearly pulled off the impossible, reflected on the opportunity that was there and the attitude at the time. “I think that last drive and when we got the ball and had time to go down and score a touchdown, we thought it was our game.”
Baltimore came with two blitzes on third and fourth down, causing Kaepernick (16-for-28, 302 yards, one interception, 62 yards on the ground and a touchdown) to rush the throws that fell incomplete. But the Nevada product wouldn’t make any excuses. “No, it was our offense,” he said. “We stopped ourselves. I feel like I made too many mistakes for us to win.”
Two huge turnovers in the first half and allowing a 108-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half put San Francisco in a deep hole. But later in the third quarter (following a 33-minute delay due to a power outage at the Superdome), the NFC champions began their comeback by way of poor tackling by the Ravens.
“I think that we just took advantage of the opportunities,” said 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.
Although the Ravens may have appeared to be back on their heels defensively, they were able to keep their composure and not let the 49ers to advance those final few valuable yards. “Nobody ever panicked,” said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who did not have an effective swan song game with only four tackles and many blown chances for more. “If we all do our jobs, they won’t get in. To me, that was one of the most amazing goal line stands I’ve ever been a part of in my career. What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage?”
As Lewis rides off into the sunset, Keapernick’s time in the spotlight has merely just begun. When asked what goes through his mind after such a tough loss, the ever-confident one responded, “We’ll be back.”