New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Joe Flacco unequivocally proved he belongs with the NFL's elite quarterbacks, while John Harbaugh showed that big brother indeed knows best.
And for Ray Lewis, it was the ultimate ending to an absoutely illustrious career.
Flacco delivered a lights-out performance -- both literally and figuratively -- at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and the Baltimore Ravens warded off a furious comeback attempt by the San Francisco 49ers to hold on for a 34-31 victory in a thrill-packed Super Bowl XLVII that every bit lived up to its advance billing.
With nearly all of the two-week pregame buildup focused around either Lewis -- due to the iconic linebacker and team leader's retirement announcement prior to the playoffs as well as a recent Sports Illustrated story stating he used a banned deer antler spray to help recover from a midseason triceps injury -- or the unprecedented head-to-head clash of Harbaugh and his sibling Jim on football's biggest stage, it was Flacco's rising star that shone the brightest.
The ultra-composed Baltimore field general threw three touchdown passes to stake his team to a 21-6 halftime lead it very nearly gave away, and finished with 287 yards and no turnovers on a crisp 22-of-33 passing to earn Most Valuable Player honors, a place among the sport's upper echelon at the position -- and almost certainly a massive new contract as an impending free agent.
Anquan Boldin hauled in one of Flacco's scoring strikes while amassing 104 yards on six catches, with Jacoby Jones adding a Super Bowl-record 108-yard kickoff return score in addition to hauling in a 56-yard touchdown pass to help the Ravens capture their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
It didn't come easy, however. Sparked by a terrific second-half performance by young quarterback Colin Kaepernick and an extended break caused by a mysterious 34-minute power outage early in the third quarter, a valiant San Francisco squad cut a 28-6 deficit down to two after Kaepernick's 15-yard touchdown run with just under 10 minutes left to play pulled the Niners within 31-29.
Inspired by both Lewis' swan song and the game's obvious magnitude, the Baltimore defense rose to the occasion down the stretch. The Ravens thwarted a potential tying two-point conversion attempt following Kaepernick's touchdown, then later came up with a pivotal late stop after San Francisco got down to the 5-yard line in the final moments.
Kaepernick overcame a slow start to throw for 302 yards and a touchdown to Michael Crabtree while completing 16-of-28 passes with an interception. Both Crabtree and Vernon Davis eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the Niners, who outgained Baltimore by a 468-367 margin in total offense, while Frank Gore added 110 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Crabtree compiled 109 yards on five catches and Davis had six grabs totaling 104 yards for San Francisco, which suffered its first-ever Super Bowl loss and came up just short in its goal to match the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most wins (6) in the Big Game.