Ravens Report Card: Breaking Down The Ravens 34-31 Victory Over San Francisco
What a game.
The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions once again, holding off a furious 3rd quarter rally by the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31.
It was all Ravens early as they had San Francisco wobbly on the ropes when Jacoby Jones returned the opening 2nd half kickoff back 108 yards to give the Ravens a commanding 28-6 lead.
Then the Superdome went dark. Losing a majority of lights in the stadium, even the CBS Sports announcers were knocked off the air (which I’m sure some Ravens fans were happy about), the game was delayed 35 minutes while Superdome officials worked feverishly to restore power and get the game restarted. Once the game restarted, the Niners came out on fire, scoring 17 points in a matter of four minutes to pull to within 28-23 late in the 3rd quarter.
San Francisco outscored Baltimore 25-13 in the 2nd half, as a laugher quickly turned into the highly competitive game we all thought it would be. After a Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 34-29 lead, it was up to a tired, but determined Ravens defense, the task of stopping the Niners one final time.
In a fitting way to end the era of Ray Lewis in Baltimore, the Ravens held the 49ers at the five-yard line in a dramatic goal line stand situation to get the ball back and essentially ice the game for the Ravens.
Joe Flacco capped off a masterful and dominate playoff stretch with a three touchdown performance in the Super Bowl. All Flacco did was join his boyhood idol Joe Montana for most touchdowns thrown in the playoffs without throwing an interception, finishing with 11. He had a QB rating of over 100 in each playoff game, finishing with a 124.2 rating.
Yeah, he’s pretty good. And if that wasn’t enough, he was also the game’s MVP as he finished 22-of-33 for 287 yards and zero turnovers.
The growth of Joe Flacco can be measured in so many ways. His poise in the pocket was better in the 2nd half of the season, but was on full display in the playoffs as his awareness has become much better with the offensive line blocking well. When he feels pressure collapsing the pocket, he steps up into the pocket to make some excellent throws which he did in this game.
Flacco doesn’t have blazing speed like Colin Kaepernick but he can move out of the pocket to buy himself time and make throws downfield like he did to Anquan Boldin for a 30-yard gain in the 1st quarter. Flacco evaded linebacker Ahmad Brooks and Boldin outmuscled Chris Culliver.
He hooked up with Boldin for what seems to be their signature pass and catch, on a 3rd-and-4 in the 1st quarter, Flacco timed the ball perfectly as Boldin beat the safety Donte Whitner for the first score of the game. When Flacco throws like that to Boldin, its nearly unstoppable.
On the 2nd score of the game in quarter two, Flacco made some tough throws to Ed Dickson who held on to the ball and then Dennis Pitta for the touchdown, again beating Whitner as Patrick Willis was late covering the tight end.
His third touchdown came to Jacoby Jones as we saw nice footwork from Flacco to step back into the pocket and find Jones streaking down the seam for the catch and score of 59 yards.
The audible by Flacco at the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-inches was gutsy, but it was the right call as he again found Boldin on the back shoulder who somehow caught the ball with the defenders arm inside of his arm to move the chains and eat clock. The maturation of Joe Flacco comes to full tilt.
Just an outstanding performance from Joe Flacco who is ready to have the Brinks truck backed up to his house any day now.
Running Backs: C+
Overall, an uneven performance from this unit. Ray Rice lost a fumble on a catch out of the back field deep in their own territory and only rushed for 59 yards. Rice was hesitant at times when he ran as the Niners swarmed him instead of taking the action to them and running with force. When the holes were there, Rice doesn’t delay, but he was having difficulty creating them on his own.
Rice was much more effective in the passing game, catching only four balls for 19 yards, but those catches helped the Ravens extend drives and get first downs. For example, his catch on a 3rd-and-4 with 4:47 left in the 2nd quarter where he caught a pass in the flat, turned it back inside and snuck past NaVorro Bowman who whiffed on Rice in man-to-man coverage.
Bernard Pierce was the opposite as he grinded out 33 yards, but as he’s done this season in his emergence, runs decisively and hits the holes running, taking on the linebackers that meet him. Pierce gets the calls on tough, short-down situations and usually comes out on top as the Ravens like to run him up the gut and behind Vonta Leach who led the way. Leach was eating up defenders in the 2nd half as Pierce and Rice ran behind him for yardage.
Both Rice and Pierce did a nice job in their pass protection blocking, teaming with the offensive line to keep Flacco upright and mobile.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Anquan Boldin was the man in the playoffs. Boldin had a couple tough drops, but redeemed himself with his 4th touchdown catch of the postseason which came much the same way it did against the New England Patriots. The Ravens went five wide in their set as Boldin faked an inside route and got behind NaVorro Bowman, beating safety Donte Whitner for the score. Boldin finished the night with six catches for 104 yards.
San Francisco sat back in coverage, not allowing themselves to get beat deep, so Flacco used his receivers and tight ends effectively in the middle of the field with intermediate passes. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson carved up the Niners with some catches in the middle of the field, as Ed Dickson held onto one throw from Flacco for 23 yards. Pitta was involved more so in the 1st half, finishing the game with four catches for 26 yards.
Torrey Smith had a relatively quiet Super Bowl, catching just two passes for 35 yards, including one catch that went for 20 yards. Smith very well could have scored right at the end of the 1st quarter if not for contact from cornerback Chris Culliver who did that a lot in the game. Smith is too fast to not catch a ball placed as perfectly as it was from Flacco. It was a missed call.
Jacoby Jones very well could have won MVP honors. In addition to his kick return, Jones – the New Orleans native – caught his one pass of the night for a 59-yard touchdown reception. He split Culliver and the safety Whitner for a one-one-one matchup on his route because Whitner came up to defend Boldin. Again, thanks Houston for giving up on Jacoby Jones.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line again was outstanding. Flacco was sacked twice in the game, but they neutralized the 49ers ferocious front seven. Aldon Smith was non-existent in this game thanks to a great job from Bryant McKinnie. The big man didn’t allow Smith to put him on his heels and held his own as Smith tried a variety of moves around him. Michael Oher held his own as well on the times Smith matched up on him.
There is no one who can block Kelechi Osemele right now, he’s been that good. The Ravens ran behind him and McKinnie as the duo sealed off blockers. Marshal Yanda was solid and helped to target the 49ers linebackers with blocking. Matt Birk finally gets a Super Bowl ring and played a solid game up the middle for the Ravens as he had Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga over top of him.
The one mistake I saw is on Ahmad Brooks’ sack, there was confusion with who blocked him as McKinnie missed him.
Defensive Line: B
In my Playoff Primer, I mentioned that the Ravens defensive line needed to maintain gap integrity and stay home on their assignments and they did just that, handling Colin Kaepernick and the pistol offense looks. Before leaving the game with a knee injury, Haloti Ngata gave the 49ers offensive line problems as he was even beating their double teams. Ma’ake Kemoeatu filled in as did Terrence Cody and DeAngelo Tyson with Ngata out but the Ravens didn’t generate quick enough pressure up front to get sacks.
Art Jones was solid and has really upped his game tremendously this season blossoming in his third year with Baltimore. Art Jones recorded one sack, tripping up Kaepernick who stayed with the play and earlier, recovering the fumble forced by Courtney Upshaw.
The biggest thing is the Ravens refused to be worked by the 49ers athletic offensive line and held their own, even after the injury to Ngata when the 49ers attacked the middle of the field.
The 49ers game plan was to attack the middle of the field and they did. They ran routes and blockers right at Ray Lewis who couldn’t get to the ball quick enough and missed tackles in space. Lewis did finish with seven tackles. Dannell Ellerbe was excellent in coverage finishing with nine total tackles. He wrapped up pretty well in space, but he along with Ray Lewis had no answer for Vernon Davis over the middle as he caught six passes for 104 yards.
Courtney Upshaw showed his talents, punching the ball out from LaMichael James, forcing the fumble which Art Jones recovered. Ravens defenders are excellent when another guy has the guy with the ball wrapped up to try and punch the football out.
Paul Kruger recorded two sacks and three tackles. His level of play will bring him a lot of money on the market. He got a lot of push and hurried Kaepernick at times. Terrell Suggs got pressure on the other side too and played consistently despite only recording two tackles.
The Ravens secondary had a bend but don’t break mentality and did a nice job of limiting their explosive weapons on the offensive side in the 1st half. The corner play didn’t allow much behind them, very good communication by the safeties and corners. Cary Williams played pretty well on the ball, coming back on a route ran by Randy Moss that he nearly picked off right before halftime. Williams had tight coverage on Ginn Jr. in the 3rd quarter deflecting a pass away in the endzone. Corey Graham stayed with Michael Crabtree as the Niners tried to take him deep, good coverage mostly from him.
New Orleans native Ed Reed had an interception in the 1st half and he finally gets the ring he deserves. Bernard Pollard was strong in run coverage but on Crabtree’s touchdown, both Pollard and Williams missed tackles, going for the hit instead of the tackle.
More so in the 2nd half, the Ravens went to zone coverage so the 49ers racked up a good chunk of yardage, keeping the receivers in front of them. But they didn’t allow anything over the top, and that was important.
Special Teams: B+
Jacoby Jones showed out in his hometown. What a night for him. The longest kick return in Super Bowl history also tied his own mark of longest kick return in regular season as well. Baltimore fans everywhere thank the Houston Texans for letting this guy go.
Coverage in punts and kicks were pretty solid as they didn’t allow Ted Ginn, Jr. to get going until a terrible punt in the 3rd quarter which he ran back 32 yards to set up another San Fran touchdown. Sam Koch didn’t have a very good postseason after recording career highs in numbers during the regular season.
Justin Tucker converted two field goals and four extra points. The fake field goal attempt was a look the Ravens liked and nearly worked, but considering its the Super Bowl and the caliber opponent playing, taking the three points there was the smart move. Had the Ravens lost, that play would have come back to haunt them.
This team was ready to play. Kudos to John Harbaugh who knows how to get his teams up for games. The fake FG attempt was ballsy and yet, baffling. I guess the Ravens were trying to send a message that they weren’t going to get away from being aggressive, but it really could have hurt them. Luckily it didn’t. Jim Caldwell drew up a nice game plan. They had the 49ers thrown off most of the game. They threw when San Fran expected run, they ran when the Niners expected pass.
Defensively, the Ravens had a bend but don’t break way about them as they usually do. They didn’t allow the 49ers to take control of this game and had a goal line stand that will be forever remembered in Super Bowl lore.
An amazing season comes to a close. This Ravens team has given fans the memory of a lifetime, as they battled back each time in the playoffs to get the ultimate job done. They could have packed it in when the Niners made their furious comeback when the Ravens just looked flat, but they didn’t. It was all up to the Ravens defense to make one last stop and they did. The Lombardi Trophy comes home.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.