Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun
February 3, 2013
Nothing could stop this Ravens team from fulfilling its football destiny. Not a season of adversity. Not a very good San Francisco 49ers team that scored 17 straight points to make Super Bowl XLVII a game again. And certainly not a 33-minute power outage. The Ravens are your Super Bowl champions, and to do it, they played their hearts out.
As the confetti fell in the Superdome, dusting the field on which the Ravens won their second Vince Lombardi Trophy, a celebration more than a decade in the making was underway. Ray Lewis, whose retirement announcement fueled the Ravens at the start of their Super Bowl run, embraced Terrell Suggs, who was trying to wrap his head around the fact that he had just achieved, as he calls it, football immortality. Chykie Brown, a second-year cornerback, did snow angels in a pile of purple and yellow scraps of paper. Owner Steve Bisciotti sprinted from coach John Harbaugh to his franchise quarterback, hugging Joe Flacco (and possibly shoving a check for $120 million in Flacco's hand-warmer). Anquan Boldin hoisted his young son onto his shoulders. And Ed Reed gleefully bobbed from person to person on the stage as he waited for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to hand the trophy to its worthy new owners.
Each of the 53 men on the active roster and the dozens of other men and women who helped transform this storybook season from fantasy to non-fiction celebrated Sunday's 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII their own way, but this was something that they earned together. For this group of men, their greatest asset was not the rocket right arm of Flacco or the purple hearts or Lewis and Reed, but unity. They rallied around Torrey Smith early in the season after the sudden death of his little brother. They fought through injuries to Lewis and Suggs and cornerback Lardarius Webb, refusing to make excuses. They made themselves accountable when Harbaugh switched offensive coordinators in early December. They shut out the noise when they lost four of their final five regular-season games. And they survived games in Denver and New England that many people -- myself included -- said they wouldn't win.
After persevering through all that, there was no way that the Ravens were going to let a bizarre power outage and a fierce 49ers rally keep them from putting their fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy. Sure, they made it interesting -- way too interesting for your liking probably. But that's how these Ravens roll. That's how they have always rolled. Suggs seems to get a kick out of the rollercoaster ride of emotions his teams make Baltimoreans endure, but strapping in for Ray's last ride was well worth it on Sunday night.
"We said, 'Stay buckled up, Baltimore,' and we did," Reed said after the ride finally came to a halt.
The Ravens dominated the 49ers in the first half and jumped ahead by 22 points when Jacoby Jones scored on the longest kickoff return in playoff history. But soon, the lights inside the Superdome would suddenly go out, and after they came back on, the 49ers quickly put up 17 points to pull within a score. After Flacco led the Ravens to a field goal on the most important drive of his career, the defense had to make one last stand -- a fitting end to their middle linebacker's larger-than-life career. The 49ers got four cracks at the end zone from inside the 10-yard line, but the Ravens defense held firm in the red zone, as it has done all season, and the victory was secured moments later when 49ers returner Ted Ginn was slammed to the turf on the game's final play. Cue the confetti and let the celebration begin.
The champagne may still be bubbling by the time you read this, as it was a long time coming for guys like Reed, center Matt Birk and wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Sure, everyone was playing for Lewis, but they were playing for themselves, too, which was why it was nice to hear Lewis acknowledge it when lifting the Lombardi Trophy again and say that he wanted to win it for everyone else. All those heart-breaking, bitter defeats alongside Reed and Suggs and Birk and Boldin made Sunday's victory even sweeter.
"This is the greatest feeling ever," Lewis later said. It's a feeling that isn't going to fade for a long, long time.