NEW ORLEANS —
Well, try to look on the bright side. The Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII Sunday night and quarterback Joe Flacco was the Most Valuable Player.
But that will cost the team dearly.
Flacco is up for a new contract, perhaps $20 million a year. The Ravens won't be able to keep a couple of good players under the salary cap after they re-sign him. That should help the Steelers.
Hey, that's the best I've got for you after the hated Ravens hung on to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, at the faulty Mercedes-Benz Superdome in one of the great Super Bowls.
There will be no cheap jokes here about the embarrassing power outage that delayed the game for 35 minutes early in the second half with the Ravens leading, 28-6. Nothing about how New Orleans got its revenge on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for Bountygate. Nothing about Beyonce's hot, steamy halftime performance blowing out the dome's electrical system. Certainly, nothing about how the lights were turned out on the 49ers' season a bit prematurely.
Flacco deserves better.
This Super Bowl was about him.
This postseason was about him.
"Joe Cool," they call Flacco in Baltimore. That's what they used to call 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, a four-time Super Bowl winner, three-time Super Bowl MVP and, simply, the greatest player in Super Bowl history. It no longer is sacrilegious to mention the two in the same paragraph. Flacco threw for three touchdowns Sunday night and had a passer rating of 124.2. In this postseason, he had 11 touchdown passes — none bigger than the tying 70-yard pass to wide receiver Jacoby Jones against the Denver Broncos in the final minute of regulation — with no interceptions. That 11-0 combination matched what the great Montana did after the 1989 season when he led the 49ers to their fourth title.
Baltimore's Joe Cool kept his composure after the Ravens nearly blew that big lead. The 49ers scored on four consecutive possessions and trailed, 31-29, when the Ravens took possession at their 21 with 9:51 left. On a third-and-inches play at the Ravens 45, coach John Harbaugh put all his trust in his quarterback and Flacco delivered. His perfect pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin went for a 15-yard gain despite excellent coverage by cornerback Carlos Rogers. That led to a 38-yard field goal by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker and a 34-29 lead.
It turned out the Ravens needed those points at the end. Instead of being able to kick a winning field goal in the final two minutes, the 49ers had to go for a touchdown. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw three consecutive incompletions from the Ravens 5 to essentially end the 49ers' quest for a sixth Lombardi Trophy, which would have matched the Steelers' great feat.
Instead of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Kaepernick, his brilliant young quarterback, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, it was John Harbaugh and retiring linebacker Ray Lewis who had the privilege of doing it.
Deal with it, Pittsburgh.
Lewis thanked Flacco for making his last NFL ride arguably his best ride. Flacco's first-half touchdown passes of 13 yards to Boldin, 1 yard to tight end Dennis Pitta and 56 yards to Jones helped the Ravens build that big lead. His big fourth-quarter pass to Boldin made sure that it held up.
Boldin, a Super Bowl winner this time, was a member of the Arizona Cardinals, who lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. He played with future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
"I think out of all the quarterbacks that I've played with, physically, (Flacco) is the most gifted that I've ever been around," Boldin said. "He can make every throw."
Forget that debate about Flacco being an elite quarterback. It's a fact now. He belongs with the greats.
Flacco's timing couldn't be better. He has played out his rookie contract and can become a free agent in March. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has said the team will put the franchise tag on Flacco for the 2013 season if it can't do a new long-term deal with him.
"We have a franchise quarterback. He's going to get franchise money," Bisciotti said. "We've got our franchise quarterback for the next 10 years and we're going to ride Joe."
Bisciotti said he has all the confidence in the world in general manager Ozzie Newsome working out a new deal with Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, a Freedom native.
You think Newsome has a pretty good idea how valuable Flacco is to the Ravens?
"If Joe Flacco wasn't a very good quarterback, I'd probably be playing golf down in Alabama somewhere," Newsome said. "It all goes with the quarterback."
Certainly, it did last night for the world champion Ravens.
(Ron Cook is a sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)