(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)
Turnovers, the age-old playoff killer, quickly took the luster off the 49ers before halftime. San Francisco rookie running back LaMichael James, while pressing to make a play, coughed up the ball deep in Baltimore territory as lineman Arthur Jones pounced on it at the 25. Prior to the giveaway, Davis snared two more passes for 40 yards as San Francisco seemed primed to take the lead.
But a steady mix of Ravens rookie runner Bernard Pierce (14 rushing yards on the ensuing drive) and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson (three catches collectively) ultimately produced Baltimore's second touchdown when Flacco fired a 1-yarder to Pitta.
Down 14-3, Kaepernick began making the mistakes he'd largely avoided (though many predicted) since taking over for veteran Alex Smith at midseason. Naturally, old soul safety Ed Reed was the one to victimize Kaepernick by reeling in the quarterback's next pass (the first interception in 49ers Super Bowl history) at the San Francisco 44 before returning it 6 yards. But the Ravens got a little too cute at the expense of putting the Niners into a two-TD hole when rookie kicker Justin Tucker failed to convert a fake field goal for a first down.
Yet Kaepernick continued to press - cornerback Cary Williams nearly picked him off again - and the Ravens went back on the attack after forcing another three-and-out. Jacoby Jones, who's shown a playoff penchant for running loose in the secondary during these playoffs, added to Culliver's week of woe and hauled in a Flacco bomb. Jones fell after corraling the ball, found his feet, then wove his way into the end zone to complete the 56-yard hookup. Flacco's playoff ledger (11 TD passes, 0 interceptions) remained clean while matching that of Niners legend Joe Montana as the best ever in one postseason.
San Francisco recovered enough to tack on a 27-yard Akers field goal at the gun, the key play coming on a 28-yard dart to Walker. But the growing deficit would seem to limit their ability to use the deadly read-option elements of their pistol offense.
Of note, Ravens center Matt Birk predicted the game would be a "bloodbath," and the first two quarters produced far more pushing and shoving than typically seen in Super Bowls.
Tight end receiving yards: Ravens 56, 49ers 114
Time of possession: Ravens 15:30, 49ers 14:30
RAVENS 21, 49ERS 6
PHOTOS: Super Bowl XLVII photos
Anquan Boldin hauls in a 13-yard TD pass.(Photo: Crystal LoGiudice, USA TODAY Sports)
As might be expected, the Baltimore Ravens came out of the chute like a team that's been in the postseason five years running. Joe Flacco's demeanor remained cool and his hand hot as he immediately attacked the San Francisco 49ers' struggling secondary on Baltimore's first drive. Flacco complete three of his first four passes for 41 yards and capped the drive by lofting a 13-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin - his fourth scoring grab of the playoffs - over the head of 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner.
The Niners and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, making just his 10th NFL start, looked far more jittery on their first possession and went three-and-out after a 20-yard catch by tight end Vernon Davis was negated when he lined up illegally. Delanie Walker erased another completion when he failed to get his feet in bounds.
However the 25-year-old passer heated up on the next possession and went to work establishing Davis as a weapon against Baltimore's linebackers, who don't thrive in coverage. Davis' 24-yard grab over Dannell Ellerbe put San Francisco in the Ravens red zone before the drive stalled courtesy of a Paul Kruger sack of Kaepernick.
But a good sign: scattershot Niners kicker David Akers converted from 36 yards.
The better news was San Francisco's defense forcing a Baltimore punt to end the period after embattled nickelback Chris Culliver was beaten for a 31-yard catch by Boldin on the sideline. Boldin let Culliver know about it, too, as a chippy tone betwen the teams seemed to escalate.
Flacco passing yards: 77; Kaepernick rushing yards: 16
Time of possession: Ravens 6:27, 49ers 8:33