Kaepernick in these playoffs has improved substantially in the second half, and no opposing lead seemed out of reach. Sunday night’s comeback was one for the ages, but history remembers the winners.
John Harbaugh, like his brother, gambled with his team’s fate this season, firing offensive coordinator and friend Cam Cameron in December and replaced him with Jim Caldwell, a calming presence whose attitude spread to his offense.
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This was a contrast, of course, to Baltimore’s rowdy defense, whose ceremonial face this postseason was Lewis, although Sunday evening showed that the old man’s plan to retire is probably a timely one. Still, a team built for years on defense — this was its calling card, even as Flacco developed and mostly underachieved — somehow regained control after Kaepernick’s comeback. Its fourth-down stop deep in Baltimore’s territory all but sealed the Ravens’ win.
“I was sitting there thinking there’s no way, there’s no way we stop them here,” Flacco said.
John Harbaugh didn’t stop taking risks Sunday inside the Superdome. His decision to try a fake field goal backfired and looked worse after San Francisco’s comeback, and calling for punter Sam Koch to take a safety late in the fourth quarter, did spend a few extra seconds but also trimmed Baltimore’s lead to a field goal. The coach, like his quarterback, survived — and when the Harbaugh brothers met after the Ravens’ win, they hugged, though John Harbaugh said it was a difficult moment.
By the time Flacco was prepared for this stage, Baltimore’s defense was aging. It was no longer the dominant unit of the previous decade. Now the Ravens needed Flacco to step forward, into the spotlight and into a classification that many observers said was beyond his talents.
Late Sunday, under bright lights in a stadium that had gone dark and threatened to change Super Bowl history, silver streamers fell and colorful confetti was pumped from cannons. As it did, Flacco ran toward the middle of the field and teammates piled onto him, pulling him to the ground.
“He has taken a lot of criticism over his career for whatever reason,” Pitta said. “But we’ve always believed in him.”