Updated: March 5, 2013 6:35AM
NEW ORLEANS — Have you ever seen money being printed? Ink flowing, paper being cut?
Yes, you have. You saw it Sunday night. I don’t mean to be so crass as to introduce cold, hard cash into something as virtuous and non-commercial as the Super Bowl, but when Joe Flacco came out for the second half, his jersey number had changed to his PIN number.
And Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers’ second-year quarterback, will find himself a very rich man some day, if he can build on what he did in the second half Sunday.
Flacco was wonderful against the 49ers, especially in the first half. The only thing he didn’t do was win this game by candlelight, but that’s only because he wasn’t given the chance. A 34-minute delay in the third quarter due to a power outage seemed to energize San Francisco, turning a potential blowout into an incredibly entertaining game.
Flacco is up for a new contract after the season, and what he did Sunday was force the Ravens to fire up the mint. The talk is of a contract worth about $20 million a year. That talk is not cheap. But, Lord, he looked deserving of whatever it is he wants. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, but that doesn’t begin to do justice to what he did against the 49ers.
There were two plays that defined him Sunday — two ridiculous plays that should go down in Super Bowl lore. The first came in the first quarter, when the Ravens were facing a third-and-seven. Flacco was under heavy pressure from the 49ers, and every page in the Quarterback Handbook said the same thing: Throw the ball out of bounds and live to fight another drive.
But then he did something that I didn’t think possible. While being forced backward and toward the sidelines, he wound up and threw a pass. And not just any pass. A pass that had zip and purpose. It landed right in the hands of Anquan Boldin, who beat Chris Culliver for a 30-yard gain. The Ravens didn’t get a point on the drive, but the bigger point was made: Whoa, what an arm.
The second play was another athletic play, this one just before halftime. Flacco stepped up out of the pocket to avoid the pressure and threw a pass to Jacoby Jones that very few quarterbacks could make. Jones had to wait for it, but all the best things are worth waiting for, right? Jones fell down untouched, got up, spun, avoided a tackler and then juked and outran Culliver to the end zone. That was a 56-yard connection, and it led to a 21-3 Ravens’ lead.
This should put an end to the talk that Flacco was born with a tragic shortage of charisma — a lesser quarterback than Tom Brady or either Manning. But he showed there’s something beating inside his rib cage and that, given the chance, he’s as good as anyone. He was superb throughout the playoffs.
When Jones ran back the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, the game seemed over. But then the 49ers came charging back, thanks to momentum, turnovers, dumb penalties and Kaepernick. After a rough first half, the kid finally found himself in the second half, showing the poise that made him so good since his first start, against the Bears in November. His 15-yard run in the fourth quarter cut the lead to 31-29.
The question has to be asked: Did the power outage allow the 49ers to regroup, and did it take away the Ravens’ momentum? When it started, Baltimore led 28-6.
And then all hell broke loose.
But the Ravens can’t use that as an excuse. When the power went back on, the football was the same size. So was the field. Blocking and tackling were done in the same way as it was before the lights went out.
And who do you blame anyway for the outage? Bud Selig?
With the Ravens on their heels on a third down in the third quarter, Flacco hit Boldin with a short pass that ended up going for 30 yards. It was the kind of play detractors wondered whether he could make in the clutch.
Kaepernick couldn’t connect with Michael Crabtree on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, allowing the Ravens to hold on to a 34-29 lead. You know what that means for Flacco: Money.