It took a near monumental collapse, an intentional safety and a lucky no-call, but the Baltimore Ravens have defied the odds to win the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions. Joe Flacco was named the game's MVP, and he is certainly worthy of recognition.
Several other players are equally worthy of recognition. Whether they provided the big plays or steady performances all around, these players led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory. Let's give them the props they deserve.
Jacoby Jones, WR
Usually, guys who only have one catch aren't exactly big performers. When that catch is a 56-yard touchdown, though, then you deserve some credit. When you also return a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, then you become a primetime performer.
Really, Jones' performance comes down to two plays. Two touchdowns.
Simply put, without Jones' speed, the Ravens would not have won this football game. The highlight-reel touchdowns he produced, though, were key to the game and made Jones the primetime performer.
Anquan Boldin, WR
All season long, Anquan Boldin served as a catalyst for the Ravens' offense at the biggest moments. There would be no doubt that Boldin would once again serve as a star performer in this game.
Six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown only tell part of the tale. No, Boldin's impact goes beyond his stats. Two catches exemplify the impact that Boldin really made in the clutch.
One was a 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-1. Flacco audibled out of a run seeing a single-coverage matchup, then threw a back-shoulder toss that was a near impossible catch in tight coverage. Boldin got his hands in the right position around the defender and made the highlight-reel grab for a first down.
The other was a brilliant third-down reception in the first quarter in which Boldin streaked across the field to make the sideline grab. Few receivers have the drive to stay with a play as long as Boldin did, yet he continued to follow the football so he could make a brilliant play.
Paul Kruger, OLB
Over the last half of the season, the Ravens' pass rush was supplied by one man: Paul Kruger. No surprises here, as that trend continued into the Super Bowl.
Kruger had two sacks in the game, with plenty of pressure on his opportunities. No Raven had more impact on Colin Kaepernick's passing than Kruger, as he was often in the backfield before the Niners' signal-caller had a chance to make his reads.
The best way to measure Kruger's impact is to examine how his team played without him rushing the passer. There was virtually no pass rush outside of Kruger. Art Jones did rack up a sack, but Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw were both handled on every attempt at getting to the quarterback.
Kruger is a special player who deserves a big contract this offseason. He proved it in this game.
Ed Reed, S
How fitting that Ed Reed would have such a huge impact on his first Super Bowl victory. Going into this game, Reed had been held without an interception for the past two months. He was due, and he delivered.
Reed came up with a big interception that set up a lengthy Ravens drive. The pick rattled Kaepernick for a spell as well, as he didn't connect on a longer pass until much later in the game.
Further, Reed was playing as well as he ever had. He was always in the right position, even covering for teammates who were beaten. On the game-deciding fourth down, in which Jimmy Smith was locked on Michael Crabtree in an obvious mismatch, Reed flew across the field to give Smith a hand.
On another play, Reed rocked Vernon Davis after he got behind the linebackers. In fact, Reed was rocking players on a regular basis tonight. He was throwing his body around the way he did five years ago, looking healthier than ever.
Reed played like his typical gambling self, and some of those gambles didn't pay off. Still, Reed was one of the defensive stars for the Ravens, looking like a younger version of himself.
Joe Flacco, QB
Finally, let's talk about Flacco. He was in complete command in this game. In fact, I can't think of a single throw that Flacco missed on. He was near perfect.
As usual, though, the Ravens did not have a quarterback-friendly game plan. Flacco threw plenty of deep balls and faced plenty of pressure. He handled all of that with aplomb, though, executing the difficult game plan to perfection.
Words really can't describe what an impact Jim Caldwell has made on Flacco. Since Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator, Flacco his displayed better footwork, better accuracy and better decision-making than ever.
Flacco earned the right to be called a top-tier quarterback in this game, and he certainly earned the massive contract he'll be sure to get.