Three touchdown passes in the first half pretty much made Baltimore’s Joe Flacco the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII.
Two drives that failed to produce touchdowns in the second half actually made him the winning quarterback.
Even after his first-half flurry, Flacco was tested more than ever as the San Francisco 49ers threatened to make Super Bowl history by coming from 22 points behind.
As it turned out, the Ravens definitely needed the two field goals their offense delivered in the second half of a 34-31 victory Sunday night at the Superdome.
One of Flacco’s touchdowns went to former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta, via a 1-yard toss. Pitta’s touchdown fulfilled a hope of 9-year-old Sam Gordon, the celebrated youth football player from Herriman. A guest of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and a self-described BYU fan, she had blogged about wanting to witness a Pitta TD — even though she was cheering for the 49ers to win.
She almost got both wishes.
Flacco also hit Anquan Boldin for a 13-yard score and Jacoby Jones for a 56-yard touchdown, then Jones returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. But that 28-6 lead was not sufficient, which is why Flacco’s 287-yard performance became so important and so impressive when the outcome suddenly was in question.
“He was poised, relaxed and confident,” Pitta said. “That’s why he is such a great player. He doesn’t change in tough situations. He stays the same and stays consistent.”
Flacco needed to respond when everything was crumbling around the Ravens. He came through. Their 22-point lead was down to 28-23 late in the third quarter when he led a drive that featured completions of 30 yards and 9 yards to receiver Anquan Boldin and 7 yards to Pitta, who made a nice move after catching a short pass. The Ravens were stopped at the San Francisco 1-yard line, but Justin Tucker’s field goal would prove to be important.
So would another Tucker field goal, after the 49ers had cut the lead to 31-29 — and failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Showing great trust in Boldin, Flacco lobbed a 15-yard completion to him on a third-and-1 play. That helped position Baltimore for Tucker’s 38-yard field goal that made it 34-29, although Pitta could have kept the game alive by making a third-down reception — a very difficult grab in tight coverage, but the kind of catch he was known for making at BYU.
Yet the Ravens survived in the end, and it was a redeeming victory for Flacco.
“I think we gave the country a pretty good game to watch — not to our liking, necessarily, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and that’s the way we do things,” Flacco said.
The ultimate result was a four-game playoff performance that rivals any quarterback’s postseason showing in NFL history. Flacco tied a record shared by Joe Montana and Kurt Warner with 11 touchdown passes in the playoffs, with no interceptions.
“We’ve known the kind of player he is,” said Pitta, a close friend. “He showed up on the biggest stage and performed. It’s unbelievable. He deserves everything.”
Flacco’s timing is good. With his contract expiring, he’ll command a huge new deal after having won nine playoff games in his five-year career, including four victories this season. The biggest one of all came Sunday, when the Ravens needed him to help them avoid a dubious distinction of cooperating with San Francisco’s historic comeback bid.
Ravens safety Ed Reed said the game mirrored the team’s season: “Started good, got ugly, ended great.”
Fortunately for them, Flacco was outstanding when it mattered.