Even though Super Bowl XLVII and the Baltimore Ravens hoisting their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history was four days ago, Baltimore is still painted purple and is basking in the glow of being Champions. Although this Super Bowl was rare in that there were so many big plays that affected the game, I have narrowed it down to four plays that determined the game.
First, you may be asking yourself, "how in the world can you narrow it down to just four plays?" and I would agree with you that it was incredibly difficult, and there are a number of plays that could make this list, but here are my four plays that determined the Super Bowl for the Ravens.
- Ravens defense holds on 4th and goal – San Francisco had charged back and had first and goal on the seven yard line with a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. The 49'ers play calling on those four downs has been heavily scrutinized and rightfully so, as when you have a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick, I did not understand how you don't put the ball in his hands on the run and give him four shots to get into the end zone, but nonetheless it played out the way it did. Baltimore forced three incomplete passes on second, third, and fourth downs to hold with their backs against the wall and secured the victory for the Ravens.
- Jacoby Jones kickoff return touchdown – This play was huge for a number of reasons, and obviously largely because it put seven points on the board and gave Baltimore a 22 point lead, but to me it was that much bigger for another reason. At the end of the first half, San Francisco was able to kick a field goal and head into halftime with a little momentum and only trailed by 15 points. Undoubtedly, Jim Harbaugh told the 49'ers at halftime, "force a three and out on Baltimore's first drive and let's get this game to within one score" and the 49'ers defense was likely extremely pumped up to do just that as the Ravens got the kickoff in the second half. Jones had other ideas as he stole any momentum San Francisco had and made his way 108 yards down the field to return the kickoff for a touchdown and completely throw a haymaker at the 49'ers. This play was incredibly huge in this game.
- Courtney Upshaw forced fumble - I know you are probably saying to yourself that there were other plays that were bigger than this one, but think about what this play really did. Keep in mind this forced fumble came just five plays after San Francisco had just made a huge stop and sack on defense to force Baltimore to punt for the first time and that the San Francisco offense had picked up three first downs in four plays on their current drive and had driven the ball down to Baltimore's 24 yard line with the opportunity to pull within one point or even take the lead, but Upshaw came through with the huge forced fumble and Baltimore's offense drove right down the field for a touchdown. San Francisco had a golden opportunity to take all of the momentum early in the football game, but Upshaw forced the momentum onto the Ravens side.
- Sam Koch's tackle on punt return – I almost laughed when I decided this was one of the key plays in the game because let's face it, I am saying a tackle by a punter was one of the four deciding plays in the Super Bowl! But honestly it was. After Baltimore's offense was forced to a three and out in their own territory in the third quarter, Koch came on to punt the ball away and made an awful punt and Ted Ginn Jr. had a seam on the outside, but Koch followed the play and made a touchdown saving tackle at the sideline that forced Ginn out of bounds. This did two things, one, it exemplified the Ravens never say die attitude as it would have been easy for Koch to lower his head in disgust at the bad punt he had just made, but he didn't as he stayed with the play and saved a touchdown. Second, although the 49'ers still ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive, it saved some momentum for Baltimore because of what a punt return for a touchdown does for the overall momentum. If Ginn takes that punt to the house, all of the momentum shifts over to the San Francisco bench.
I am sure there are some readers out there that disagree with some of these or feel more strongly about other plays that were more influential in the game, so I want to hear from you. Post a comment with the four plays that you think determined the game for Baltimore.
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