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Commentary: Big plays lift Ravens

NEW ORLEANS - The Baltimore Ravens season was one of big plays, and the Super Bowl mirrored that.

When fans look back on this championship season, they'll remember two plays that got the Ravens here. There was the miraculous fourth-and-29 run by Ray Rice in San Diego and the heave, the 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones.

Sunday's Super Bowl had plenty of big plays. There were Jacoby Jones' 56-yard touchdown reception and 108-yard kickoff return to start the second half.

Then, there was the fourth down pass to Michael Crabtree where Jimmy Smith wasn't called for pass interference, saving the game.

Early there were Anquan Boldin's first-quarter touchdown catch and the huge sack of Colin Kaepernick by Paul Kruger as San Francisco's wunderkind quarterback was methodically leading the 49ers down the field on the following drive.

Early in the second quarter, San Francisco again had a drive going, but a big fumble by LaMichael James propelled Baltimore to another big touchdown.

In Ed Reed's return to Louisiana, he intercepted a Kaepernick pass. This may well have been Reed's last game with the Ravens, too, though he may choose to play elsewhere.

It's hard to believe that less than two months ago there was a question about Flacco's future with the Ravens, but in retrospect the season was seemingly saved by John Harbaugh's abrupt change in offensive coordinators.

When Baltimore limped into the playoffs with four losses in five games, they were considered an outlier, a fringe playoff team who would soon be eliminated.

As they prepared for their first playoff game, the Ravens got the emotional lift from Ray Lewis who told his teammates he would retire at season's end.

That announcement took the attention away from Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano's heartwarming return from leukemia, and Baltimore won that game going away.

The season nearly ended in Denver, but in one of the classic games in NFL history, the Ravens prevailed thanks to some questionable calls by the Broncos and Peyton Manning's bad throw in overtime.

Though New England led at halftime in the AFC Championship Game, Baltimore throttled the Patriots in the second half.

After disposing of Manning and Brady, their battle with the runaround style of Kaepernick looked relatively easy and the second-year man was rattled, but that was soon to change.

There was plenty to remind Ravens fans of home. They chanted the Seven Nation Army's song before the game and growled a huge "O" during Alicia Keys' version of the National Anthem. In the days before the game, the streets of New Orleans were filled with many more Ravens fans than 49ers partisans.

The secondary was leaky too, just as it was as at times during the season. The questionable call by special teams coach Jerry Rosburg near the end of the first half to have Justin Tucker eschew a nearly certain 38-yard field goal for a run backfired, but San Francisco couldn't move the ball.

Just before halftime, there was another long pass from Flacco to Jones, and the 21-6 halftime score seemed insurmountable.

When Jones started the second half with his 108-yard kickoff return, it looked like another Super Bowl blowout.

Instead, fans had to endure a 33-minute delay when the Mercedes-Benz Superdome lights went out. After a week where everyone tried their hardest and succeeded in making visitors feel welcome, many fans will remember not Jones' spectacular plays, but the blackout and the incessant announcements by the public address announcer that play would resume momentarily.

The unprecedented delay seemed to take the Ravens out of their rhythm. Two third-quarter touchdowns and a field goal by San Francisco made the score close, and a fourth quarter touchdown cut Baltimore's lead to two points.

In the end, thanks to a field goal and the key defense by Smith, the Ravens hung on for a close win.

"It's never pretty. It's never perfect, but it's us," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens won 14 games - 10 in the regular season - and four in the postseason. The last one was the hardest.

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