BOSTON (CBS) — Deep down in places we don’t like to talk about, we all knew that this is how it would end for Ray Lewis.
Sure, we may have convinced ourselves that the 49ers would destroy Lewis’ Ravens, that Joe Flacco would melt in the spotlight, that Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis and Frank Gore would take turns making Lewis looking like a one-armed geriatric, and so on. But we knew.
We’ve seen Ray Lewis trot himself out on every television program for the past month, talking about his own greatness and how God is apparently a huge Ravens fan and wants to do “His will” by letting the self-promoting hypocrite win a football game, because sporting contests are always what higher powers are concerned with. We may have not wanted to see the shot of a celebrating Lewis standing amid the confetti, but be honest, you knew it was coming.
The good news, though, is that Lewis is officially done, and you don’t have to waste your energy rooting against him in vain. He’ll still be on television just as much, if not more than he’s been the past month, but at least he’ll just be a cartoon character you can laugh at, rather than the self-promoting middle linebacker who can’t keep up with NFL players yet inexplicably gets all the credit on defense.
(If you think the self-promotion is being overstated here, I kindly ask you to look at the man’s shoe insole, which was covered in all of his career statistics. Even the bottoms of his stinky, sweaty socks need to be informed at all times just how great he is.)
Alas, he’s a champion and gets to ride out into the sunset, just the way he wanted, because Ray Lewis gets everything he wants.
Now because football is fun, and we’re going to miss it for the next seven months, let’s run through a few leftover thoughts before closing the book on the 2012 NFL season.
–The Ravens played some great football, so don’t take this the wrong way. But the 49ers lost that game. They lost it in the final minute of the first half, the first 11 seconds of the second half and their final drive on offense.
The Niners blew it at the end of the first half. Colin Kaepernick completed a 28-yard pass to Delanie Walker with 57 seconds left. The 49ers called their first timeout. During that timeout, San Francisco apparently made plans for just one play, a pass over the middle to Vernon Davis, because after the 8-yard completion, Kaepernick called a huddle as time ticked and ticked and ticked off the clock with the ball at the 9-yard line. Tick, tick, tick, and then finally, a simple run up the middle for no gain. Timeout No. 2, this one with 21 seconds left.
The 49ers came out of this timeout facing a third-and-2, and they drew up a play where Kaepernick rolled right with just two receiving options. He took a sack for no gain, timeout No. 3 was called, and they had to settle for a field goal.
The first 11 seconds of the second half speaks for itself, with Darcel McBath (who?) letting Jacoby Jones run through a tackle en route to the 108-yard kick return, and the final drive has been and will continue to be dissected and overanalyzed a million times, so I need not get into that.
It was a lesson in how to completely succumb to the pressure of the Super Bowl, and the 49ers’ coaches and players have to wear that for at least the next year. Some of them will have to keep it with them for the rest of their careers. Ouch.
–But that’s what makes the difference between championship-winning teams and the rest of the league. There’s no real way to predict which team will respond better to the moment, and that’s why we’ll always keep watching.
–For the life of me, I just cannot understand how a team prepares for this game for two full weeks, then takes the field and lines up in an illegal formation. How does that happen? A high school team wouldn’t even be so dumb.
–For my money, Anquan Boldin was the MVP. The man made six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Of those six catches, four came on third down and resulted in three first downs and one touchdown. Another catch moved the chains on a second-and-6, and the other initially resulted in a first down that was proven to be a half-yard short on replay.
Jacoby Jones made the two big plays, and Flacco had the good-looking stats, but Boldin was the man who kept drives going, and without him, that offense would have stalled out far too often.
But who am I kidding? The QB is almost always going to be named MVP. If Tom Brady can be named MVP for throwing for 145 yards and one touchdown, Flacco’s obviously going to get it for throwing for 287 and three touchdowns … even if a lot of those yards came on his arm punts. Hey, whatever works.
–Everyone was trying to figure out why the power went out. I thought the origin of the problem was pretty easy to identify: Five-hundred Beyonces.
–Jim Harbaugh can cry all he want about defensive holding or pass interference, but that play call was terrible, and the pass was even worse. He should have been more worried about that.
–I absolutely loved the way that game was officiated. It reminded me of the days when NFL games resembled football games, and it was glorious. Receivers and defensive backs were allowed to battle and defensive players were allowed to actually hit people. It was great. Of course, there were some missed calls, but I’d much prefer seeing the flags stay in the officials’ pockets than a game where the officials take over.
–One call I do have to question came on the third-down play on the Niners’ final drive. I know that none of us actually know what officials consider a “defenseless receiver,” but Michael Crabtree looked pretty defenseless when his face absorbed a shot from Jimmy Smith’s helmet.
Had the officials called that one a penalty, it would have been first-and-goal from inside the 2-yard line with nearly two full minutes left on the clock. Then again, the 49ers probably would have run a few more terrible plays anyway, so it’s a moot point.
–I also don’t know what went through the mind of linesman Steve Stelljes, who got blatantly shoved by Cary Williams. Did he not know he got shoved? I feel like that’s something most people would notice.
–I picked San Francisco to win and cover, so I missed that, but I think I had a pretty good showing with the rest of the prop bets I picked. The national anthem by Alicia Keys went way over 2:10, the shots of Jack Harbaugh went under 2.5, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms definitely said “Harbaugh” more than 22.5 times, and the postgame handshake/hug was way under 6 seconds. Though I have to admit, I’m pretty steamed that Beyonce’s hair was curly. I thought I had that bet in the bag.
–I thoroughly enjoyed the Deion Sanders/Leon Sandcastle commercial, only because of the Deadspin fan mail story from Friday which proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Deion Sanders is Stephen A. Smith. Quite frankly, it was a bold move for Deion to be so brazen about it.
–My favorite commercial was the Taco Bell ad with the old people pulling pranks. The appeal is self-explanatory. I also liked the Oreo ad with the fight in the library. Seeing a police officer whisper into a meagphone, “You guys have to stop fighting. We’re the cops,” made me giggle, but I admit that’s because I’m simple.
–Underrated play by Dannell Ellerbe that may have won the Super Bowl: After Frank Gore blew past Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed all in the same play, it was Ellerbe who forced Gore out of bounds at the 7-yard line with 2:39 left in the game. Had it not been for Ellerbe, the championship parade may have been 2,800 miles to the west of where it will take place on Tuesday.
–What may have gotten lost in the shuffle of everyone debating whether it was a good or bad call for John Harbaugh to go with the fake field goal was that Justin Tucker looked like a football player on that run. He flashed decent speed to even get to the sideline and made a great cutback to slip through a Patrick Willis tackle. Imagine what football will be like if having athletic kickers becomes a trend.
–All in all, that was a great Super Bowl. I yelled and screamed and sat in disbelief countless times throughout the night, and I’m sure you did, too. We’ve now had eight of the past 11 Super Bowls to be nail-biters (or close enough), turning the days when the Super Bowl was a guaranteed blowout into ancient history. We’re lucky as football fans to get to enjoy such a great game and to be able to argue about it for days, weeks, months and years. Now let’s all try our best to get through the next seven months. Kansas City, you’re on the clock.