With a little more time to reflect, though little time to sleep, here are five more thoughts on the Ravens' Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night:
The Ravens won, so everyone in Baltimore has a joke about the power outage today. ("Yeah, I went to New Orleans and blacked out? What's new?") It's certainly what many people will remember about the game, the fact that the lights went out for 34 minutes shortly after halftime. It did have a huge impact, halting the Ravens' momentum and giving the 49ers life – so much life that they almost came from 22 points down to win. If they had completed the comeback, I'm sure some people in Baltimore would have cried all-time conspiracy and gone to their graves believing someone somewhere wanted the Ravens to lose. But that's ridiculous. I think the 49ers quite possibly would have narrowed the big deficit anyway, even if the lights never flickered. They were too good on both sides of the ball just to roll over and succumb in a blowout. They were destined to make a run. That's how sports goes, especially the NFL. You throw your punches, you take some, and you hope you come out ahead. The Ravens did, which is all that matters.
Speaking of the blackout, I'm hearing it looked and sounded like a dangerous situation on CBS. One member of the Baltimore media received a text from a family member back home, asking if it was a terrorist incident. Let's set the record straight. The lights went out on one side of the dome. The other half remained almost fully lit. At no time did anything resembling all-out darkness descend. In fact, the dome was so well lit throughout the delay that the game probably could have continued if not for the fact that it wouldn't have looked good on TV. "I think the receivers could have seen the ball downfield just fine," Joe Flacco said. It was bizarre and annoying, but nothing more.
Even though the Ravens won, the 49ers went down swinging with that Pistol offense, scoring as many points as any loser in Super Bowl history. You can be sure the Pistol is only going to get more popular in the wake of that and also the success of the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks this season. Meanwhile, the Ravens are about to lock up their classic, drop-back pocket passer to a lucrative long-term deal, guaranteeing they will not be indulging in this latest NFL trend. But that's fine that they're not going to be following what's trendy. The NFL is full of smart coaches who are going to spend the offseason studying films and coming up with new ways to combat the Pistol. It won't always go so well. I also have doubts about whether quarterbacks who run so much will be able to stay healthy. Robert Griffin III is already hurt. If I'm the Ravens, I'm more than fine going forward with my big-armed, durable guy who never misses a snap and drops back and throws the best deep ball in the league.
I don't know if Ray Lewis is absolutely, positively the most fearsome, bone-crushing linebacker in NFL history. He's certainly in the conversation with Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert and very few others. But I do know Lewis almost certainly is the last of the breed. There'll never be another one like him, partly because of what he achieved in his 17 years in Baltimore, but also because the position's job description has changed along with the game. It's more a passing game now. Linebackers have to drop back and cover as well as step up and crush the run. Every time the Ravens' offense faced a third down Sunday night, Lewis' so-called heir apparent, the 49ers' Patrick Willis, stepped out to cover tight end Dennis Pitta, Flacco's favorite target. That said it all about what the position demands now. Meanwhile, the 49ers tested Lewis' coverage abilities early and had enough success that the Ravens had to adjust and drop Paul Kruger into coverage more, taking that burden off Lewis. The reality is he is walking away just in time. But so it goes. He can still say he was a three-down player to the end, a two-time Super Bowl champion, and truly one of a kind, the last of the old-school linebacking lions.
I'm guessing that if you're on vacation a decade from now in San Francisco (sounds like a plan, let's go) and the subject of Sunday's game comes up, the first thing you're going to hear is something to the effect of "Your guy should have been called for defensive holding on that last play." Whatever. You know how it goes. The varying reactions to such controversial plays is always all in the area code. But did you hear what Torrey Smith said about the play? "I got grabbed and held all night and almost nothing got called. That's how it went. They just let us play. And that's what they did to the end," he said. That's a pretty crucial perspective there. And I have no problem with it. In fact, I'd prefer to see a lot fewer flags in general in the NFL and a lot more of letting the players decide the games rather than the refs and the inches-thick rulebook. I thought the Super Bowl was very well officiated. The crew took a minimalist approach and never bogged the game down, never became the story. I not only applaud them but shout "More! More!"