Ravens basking in the glory of their second Super Bowl title

Players, coaches content to soak up the celebration before turning toward offseason questions

February 04, 2013|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

NEW ORLEANS — — He clutched the Lombardi Trophy again about 10 hours after he held it for the first time. He had watched his quarterback Joe Flacco receive a new car as the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player and he had done one more interview as a newly minted world champion.

But before Ravens coach John Harbaugh left New Orleans on Monday afternoon, he stopped in front of a group of reporters, grabbed his arm and then aggressively pulled at his cheeks.

"Is this real?" Harbaugh asked. "Is it a dream?"

Oh, it was real. Neither Harbaugh nor his players had slept enough to dream. Fresh off a thrilling 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Ravens basked in the glory of the franchise's second Super Bowl title.

"It was quite a night last night, and I'm just proud of our team, proud of our coaches and our players, happy for our families, and most of all, happy for the people in Baltimore," Harbaugh said. "We saw some amazing pictures in Baltimore of everybody partying. That's what makes it all great."

The Ravens returned home to Baltimore on Monday afternoon, and their stirring playoff run, culminating with a late fourth-quarter goal-line stand to hold off the 49ers, will be celebrated by their fans at a parade Tuesday that starts at City Hall. But the party will have started long before that.

Team owner Steve Bisciotti  hosted a star-studded fete Sunday night in New Orleans that included a performance by singer Mary J. Blige and appearances by hip-hop icon Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce, the star of the halftime show. Several Ravens tweeted out pictures of them standing with the power couple and linebacker Ray Lewis, who played the last game of a 17-year career Sunday, and even got up on stage with Blige to teach her his patented dance moves.

"I think everybody was just having an awesome time," said Flacco, who completed one of the best postseasons ever for a quarterback by throwing three first-half touchdowns. "I went and spent some time with the family and then we went to our post-game party. I got to meet Jay-Z, I got to meet Beyoncé, and that was pretty cool. I don't think that would happen if we would've lost the game. Just laying in bed, I was exhausted and couldn't wait to put my head down on that pillow, and for some reason, when I was laying there I couldn't quite fall asleep and just kind of had my eyes open in disbelief a little bit."

That feeling extended well into Monday. As the Ravens boarded a flight and returned home for the two-plus hour trip, they passed the Lombardi Trophy around the flight. Harbaugh said that there was a point late Sunday night/early Monday morning where the Ravens thought they had lost the trophy, but if the way the players clutched it and posed for pictures with it was any indication, that won't be happening again.

"It means a lot. It means a lot to my family. It means a lot to this organization," said Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown to complete a stellar postseason. "We've been through a lot as a team this year. From losing a ton of guys to injuries, having one of our brothers lose a family member, losing an offensive coordinator, yet through it all, we persevered. We kept believing and we always felt like this was our biggest destiny."

The final game could very well serve as a microcosm of the Ravens' season. They played a near flawless first half in building a 15-point lead, which eventually grew to 28-6 when Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 108-yard touchdown. But the rest of the way, they hung on for dear life, enduring a 30-plus minute stadium power outage, a couple of key injuries (running back Bernard Pierce and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ) and a frantic 49ers comeback.

Trailing 34-29 with just over four minutes to play, the 49ers drove all the way to the Ravens' 5-yard line, but second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw three straight incompletions. Less than two minutes later, the Ravens could finally celebrate with purple and yellow confetti falling down on them.

"I was running around spinning like a little kid playing in the rain. It was amazing. I've never been a part of anything like this," said Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, whose younger brother Tevin, died in a motorcycle accident earlier in the season. "A lot of ups and downs, but that's life. We finished on the best note. We set up to do something great. We wanted to make it to the Super Bowl and become world champions and we did it. No one can take that away from us. This is history. That's special."

Harbaugh's celebration was muted somewhat out of respect for his brother, Jim, the coach of the 49ers. With their parents watching the game from commissioner Roger Goodell's box, the two brothers, separated by 15 months, met in the middle of the field following the game and John told Jim that he loved him.

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