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Birds of Paradise

Ravens QB Flacco no longer an ordinary Joe

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NEW ORLEANS -- He may be Joe Dull but you can now call him Joe MVP, as well as Joe Champ. Soon you can add Joe Mega-Rich to the list.

His dad called him dull. The world denied his elite status. In the end, Joe Flacco was Super Bowl MVP and a world champion.

This was Joe Flacco's night. The other storylines -- the Harbaugh brothers and Ray Lewis, were certainly juicy. But Flacco stole all the heat as he put together a brilliant performance in pushing his Baltimore Ravens to a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

"I don't think it's going to settle in for a while," Flacco said minutes after the victory. "We don't make anything easy. It was a hard-fought game on both sides. I think we gave the country a pretty good game to watch. Hey, sometimes it goes that way.

"We had to go out there and continue to do our job. We had some good drives and I wished we could have punched it into the end zone and made it easier on ourselves. But they played good and they are a good defence."

It's Purple Reign for the Ravens, as they collected their second Super Bowl in franchise history and ended an improbable run led by their inspirational defensive leader Ray Lewis.

Lewis suffered a torn triceps injury mid-season, but somehow found a way to get back into lineup for their wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts, while at the same time announcing this would be his last season. A win at home against the Colts and then unlikely road wins over the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots landed the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

Lewis had an ordinary game on Sunday night, but will now move into retirement as a two-time champ and the greatest player in Ravens history. His role in a double-murder 13 years ago and charges of doping will fade to the background as he begins a broadcasting career with ESPN.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh becomes a Super Bowl-winning coach while his younger brother Jim must spend the off-season wondering what might have been, after his team came back from a 28-6 deficit and put itself in position to take their first lead of the game in the final minutes. But a first-and-goal from the seven-yard line came up empty after one running play and three incomplete passes.

"How else can you finish that off but with a goal-line stand. How else can you finish the Super Bowl off?" said Lewis. "Now it's retirement. Daddy gets to come home now. I get to chase my kids. They aren't going to like me being at home all the time. It's the most ultimate feeling."

Jim Harbaugh wanted a holding penalty on the final passing attempt to the corner of the end zone, but no flags hit the turf and the Ravens had the ball and the clock to kill.

"It's tough. It's very tough. It's a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It's very painful," said John Harbaugh about beating his brother's team.

Flacco finished 22-of-33 for 287 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. There will be a few weeks of celebrating for Flacco and then he and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti will sit down and work out a long-term deal with an average annual salary in the $20 million range.

A blowout became a power outage and then turned into a classic as this game morphed from dud to the unforgettable.

Everything went Baltimore's way early as they scored on their opening drive of the game, with Flacco finding Anquan Boldin for a 15-yard major. Touchdowns for Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones pushed the lead to 21-6 at the half.

Jones then opened the third quarter with a kickoff-return touchdown to push the lead to 28-6.

Divine intervention, or perhaps a ratings-crazed CBS Sports executive, pulled the plug on power in the Superdome and shut the game down in a 34-minute delay.

When play resumed, the Niners finally appeared to have woken up. Or the Ravens had dozed off. San Francisco rattled off 17 unanswered points to trim Baltimore's lead to 28-23.

The Ravens opened the fourth quarter with a strong drive that petered out in the red zone, settling for a field goal and a 31-23 lead.

But Baltimore's drive did nothing to slow the Niners and they quickly responded, going 76 yards in 2:57 for a Kaepernick 15-yard TD run. The two-point conversion failed and the Niners trailed 31-29 with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Once again, however, Flacco was able to engineer a drive that resulted in a field goal and a 35-29 lead.

Momentum and time appeared to be on the Niners side at that point. Kaepernick drove the ball all the way to the Ravens five-yard line, but couldn't deliver a major.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2013 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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