By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
A duper super: Who had the Super Bowl ending with a free kick after a safety? Was there a prop bet on that, too?
Beyonce lit up the halftime show, and then the lights went out in the Superdome. There was a 34-minute power outage and then a 17-point power surge by the 49ers. And with the game on the line, the referees swallowed their whistles on a Baltimore penalty in the end zone.
In another era, Hanford Dixon gets called for holding and the Browns lose.
But they’re the Baltimore Ravens now, unaffected by bad breaks or forces of nature. Their 34-31 win over San Francisco was their second Super Bowl win since the team was uprooted from Cleveland, packed in moving vans and shipped to Baltimore.
The only things that stayed behind were the name, colors and boxes of records. And the incompetent losing.
On Saturday, Jonathan Ogden, the first ever Ravens draft pick, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On Sunday, Ray Lewis, the second ever Ravens draft pick, notched his second Super Bowl ring in his final game before retirement.
The Ravens wore a black patch with the name Art in a circle on their uniforms in the game to honor former owner Art Modell, who died in September. At least his end run to the Hall of Fame was stopped in its tracks on Saturday. Otherwise … the I-480 bridge might be closed this morning.
Joe Flacco earned the MVP award with three touchdown passes, completing a post-season run of 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. So now there are two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in the Browns’ division – Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger, who has two rings.
Confetti rained down from the rafters of the Superdome. On the dais on the 50-yard line stood Ozzie Newsome, the Browns’ Hall of Fame tight end-turned-Ravens general manager, accepting congrats from Commissioner Roger Goodell. For a second Super Bowl victory.
It’s over: We’re instituting a 24-hour rule on this one. Wallow in self-pity for a day, and then be done with it.
I saw this Ravens Super Bowl coming in September, before Modell’s death at age 87 gave them an inspiration to which they dedicated their season.
Newsome has pried his team’s window open with crowbars as future Hall of Famers Lewis, 37, and Ed Reed, 34, willed themselves to great play year after year, waiting for Flacco to develop into an elite quarterback.
At a special ESPN Cleveland promotion at Fleming’s in May, Newsome fielded questions from the audience. One Browns fan asked him the secret to the Ravens’ success. Newsome’s answer was succinct.
“52,” he stated, referring to Lewis’ jersey number.
Two weeks ago Newsome told me that the torn triceps injury that sidelined Lewis from October until December was a blessing.
“I don’t know what his body would be like at 37 if he had gone through the whole season,” Newsome said.
Lewis led all defenders in tackles during the Ravens’ playoff run. More importantly, merely being active, and not sidelined with an injury, enabled Lewis to maintain his hypnotic spell on his teammates.
Early in the Super Bowl week, Sports Illustrated reported Lewis was provided deer antler spray that contained a banned NFL substance to assist his rehabilitation. The provider was a publicity-seeking, shady businessman. Lewis denied the charge.
Did Lewis or didn’t he use a banned substance? It doesn’t matter. It’s game, set, match for Lewis. Championship won. Retirement begun.
Reed, who is a free agent, may try to get a final payday with Indianapolis or New England. Even if he stays with Baltimore, he won't be the same without Lewis.
Bottom line: The Ravens will not be back to the Super Bowl next year. You don't wave goodbye to two future Hall of Famers and not feel their loss.
Time to bury the past: In New Orleans, new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and offensive tackle Joe Thomas spoke hopefully of the day their team and fans can celebrate Super Bowl festivities.
Haslam said his new management team was back in Cleveland studying tape “24/7” to evaluate priorities in the upcoming free agent and draft season. Haslam and CEO Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, VP/player personnel, officially are on the clock.
For decades, Browns fans have viewed the draft as their Super Bowl. The only way for them and this city to get past Modell’s move and the sheer excellence of the Ravens is for Haslam to build an organization to lift this franchise out of the doldrums. It is his civic duty. That's what Haslam owns now.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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