NEW ORLEANS – It shaped up as a one-sided game, threatened to become a farce once the lights went out and eventually turned into a Super Bowl that was proclaimed as the greatest of them all.
Even in the middle of the wild celebrations enjoyed by the Baltimore Ravens, there was a sense that this extraordinary team of battlers buoyed by the spirit of the departing Ray Lewis, had taken part in something that will go down in NFL folklore.
Terrell Suggs would be the first to admit he is not a man known for delicate speech, but as his colleagues hugged and danced and the celebratory cigars were handed out, the 10-year veteran linebacker gave some measured thoughts on why this game was one for the ages.
"It was the greatest [Super Bowl] ever," Suggs told Yahoo! Sports. "It was everything you could ask for. If you are the champion, you're going to think it is the greatest no matter what.
"But look at what you had. You had a great story. You had our team just going out there and taking it. You had touchdowns. You had great plays. You had crazy stuff going on. You had touchdowns. You had defense. You had tackles. And you had the right winner. This is what we worked for and this is what we got."
Suggs' tone was very different from his outburst following Baltimore's road victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, loudly telling the Patriots to "enjoy the Pro Bowl" and mocking their "arrogance."
The Ravens' early scoring burst and Jacoby Jones' kickoff return to start the second half opened up a 28-6 lead for Baltimore, which looked to have iced the contest. However, Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick started to find his rhythm in the third quarter, and back-to-back touchdowns set up a thrilling final quarter.
This was the highest-scoring Super Bowl since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 48-21 defeat of the Oakland Raiders in 2003 and provided yet another exhilarating conclusion to the NFL season. Records also were set: Jones' 108-yard kickoff return was the longest ever in a Super Bowl; his 290 total yards were the most ever in a Super Bowl; and this was the longest Super Bowl ever at 4 hours, 14 minutes.
"Was it great?" Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said. "Well, it is hard to see how it could be greater. Winning the Super Bowl is what it is all about. You can't pick and choose how you want to win it.
"But to win it against a great team and a great coach – that is just about as good as it gets."
For Baltimore, nothing could have been sweeter than sending off Lewis into retirement with a Super Bowl ring adorning his finger.
Yet even the Niners could not deny that they taken part in an outstanding game of football.
"It was one heck of a game," Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We battled back right to the brink of winning. Our guys battled, they competed, we got a spark, and we weren't going to look back from there."
However, Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco admitted he would have happily accepted a one-sided victory rather than having to nervously endure the 49ers' spirited revival.
"It is unbelievable," Flacco said. "We don't make it easy. That is the way the city of Baltimore is, and that's the way we are."
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