By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Quarterback Joe Flacco put off contract talks with the Baltimore Ravens until after the season was done.
Seems like a pretty good decision at the moment, huh?
Capping a perfect postseason, the unassuming and unheralded Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three first-half touchdowns Sunday, earning Super Bowl MVP honors for leading the Ravens to a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Setting aside any questions about just how good he is and where he belongs in the conversation about the league’s best quarterbacks, Flacco became only the sixth in 47 Super Bowls to throw for three scores in a first half, connecting with Anquan Boldin for 13 yards, Dennis Pitta for 1, and Jacoby Jones for 56.
And the admittedly mild-mannered guy, who played his college football far from the spotlight at Delaware, wrapped up Baltimore’s four-game run to the title with 11 TD passes and zero interceptions. It was an impressive streak that included road victories against two of the game’s best QBs, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Flacco’s job in the second half Sunday was more about being safe than spectacular. He had helped Baltimore take a 21-6 halftime lead, and it grew to 28-6 when Jones returned the second-half kickoff a Super Bowl-record 108 yards.
That, though, is when things got strange.
First, a power outage knocked out many lights inside the Superdome, delaying action for more than a half-hour. And when play resumed, San Francisco quickly scored 17 consecutive points to make things interesting.
The Ravens held on down the stretch though, with two short field goals by rookie Justin Tucker padding the lead, and the Ray Lewis-led defense stopping the 49ers on a fourth-and-goal at the 5.
“I was sitting there thinking, `There’s no way. There’s no way we stop them here,”‘ Flacco said. “But we did.”
Neither Flacco nor his team appeared to be ready to take on all comers as the regular season concluded.
After all, the Ravens lost four of their final games to stumble into the playoffs.
And Flacco, a fifth-year pro, finished only 12th in the 32-team NFL in passer rating at a passable 87.7 — way behind league leader Aaron Rodgers’ 108.0 — while compiling 22 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Middle-of-the-pack, to say the least.
But he and his team sure did shine when the results mattered most.
“I tell you what: We don’t make it easy,” Flacco said. “But that’s the way the city of Baltimore is. That’s the way we are.”
He certainly becomes a different player in the playoffs. He set an NFL record for quarterbacks by leading his team to playoff wins in each of his first five seasons. He is 9-4 overall in the postseason.
His contract is up now. And he could wind up with one of the biggest deals in NFL history, perhaps commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year.
There would have been an opportunity to sign something last offseason, but Flacco’s agent and the Ravens could not agree on how much he was worth.
The rest of the world wasn’t really sure, either.
Flacco gave quite an answer Sunday.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)