Ask the Sportswriters

Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times  editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.

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•Question:  The Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday in New Orleans. What were your thoughts on the game?

-Dorr: It turned out to be an interesting game to watch. I missed the first quarter and then Baltimore went on a run to take a big lead after I began watching. When the Ravens had a TD kickoff return to start the second half, it looked as though it would be a boring game to watch. In fact, I switched over to NBC’s two-hour program on the first five years of Saturday Night Live. But, after flipping back during the commercials on the SNL show, I saw San Francisco start its comeback and the game became a very interesting one. When San Francisco got to the Baltimore 7 with about 2:30 to go, I was hoping the 49ers would use a play-action pass on first down, knowing Baltimore would be looking for a run because San Francisco wanted to take some time off the clock. That was the perfect time to fake a run and throw a pass. All in all, it turned out to be a pretty good game.

-Marxhausen: The game was an impressive one at that. Early signs showed that Baltimore was going to have this one in the bag early on, but San Francisco kicked it in high gear and pushed its way back into it. In the first half it was the two turnovers that made the 49ers look so poor, with a fumble by LaMichael James and then an interception by Colin Kaepernick. After the interception, doubts of Kaepernick’s ability to recover were surfacing, but he put all doubts to rest, finishing the game with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown to pull the 49ers within two points, but failed on a two-point conversion. Anquan Boldin made himself known as Joe Flacco hit him in numerous tight-spot situations. There is talk that Boldin won’t be on the team next season due to salary cap reasons, but his resume will come with an impressive bowl performance to help get him a large contract. MVP Flacco was very poised in the pocket and showed why he was there. He was comfortable, moved swiftly and made great throws, finishing with three scores and no interceptions. Towards the end of game there was a controversial call on a fourth down play for the 49ers. Although you don’t want the Super Bowl decided by a penalty, it did appear that 49er receiver Michael Crabtree’s jersey was held when the ball was in the air and the pass was within five yards from the line of scrimmage. Looks like the Packers weren’t the only ones who lost due to late missed calls this season.

-Larson:  After the long Baltimore kickoff return to start the third quarter it looked like the Ravens had an insurmountable 28-6 lead. And, I started mulling over the DVD movies on a nearby shelf. A short time later the power at the Superdome went out. I had the John Wayne classic “The Searchers” in my hand when the power was back on. I’m glad I decided to watch the game because it turned out to be a good one, with the outcome being determined in the closing minute. A good game, but not one of the best Super Bowls ever as it’s being called by some.

I don’t know if Baltimore defensive back Jimmy Smith should’ve been called for holding San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree on a fourth-and-goal play near the end of the game or not. But I’m tired of hearing that hogwash line about officials not calling an infraction at the end because they don’t want a penalty to decide the game. If they deem it a penalty it should be called  whether it’s the first quarter or the final seconds.

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•Question:  There was a power outage at the Superdome early in the third quarter which delayed the game 34 minutes. How much of a factor in the game do you think that was?

-Dorr: I’m not sure it was a factor at all. When San Francisco was trailing 7-3 but driving deep into Baltimore territory, I thought the 49ers were ready to take control of the game. Then came the fumble by the San Francisco running back and the game took a complete turn toward Baltimore. That turnover is why it makes it really hard to predict how a game like that will come out. Turnovers, sometimes lucky ones, sometimes not, can really change the momentum of a game. Without that turnover, I felt San Francisco was going to win the game. Did the power outage give San Francisco life? I don’t think so but I don’t know. I think the 49ers just began playing better.

-Marxhausen:  Jacoby Jones had just made an impressive 108-yard return for the Ravens to put them ahead 28-6 before the stadium lost lighting. San Francisco benefited 100 percent from the light failure. When the lights came back, the 49ers looked like their offense was completely different. Kaepernick was hitting receivers and Gore was rushing the ball very strong. The Ravens’ defense looked a step slower coming back from the “second halftime” and it showed when the 49ers started running away with it. It was probably one of the biggest reasons/factors why the 49ers swung back into the game. I attribute the blackout to Beyonce’s halftime performance. As good as it was, there were a lot of vast panels of lighting used for electricity, with a blackout being a possibility.  Beyonce helped the 49ers get back into the game, but the Raven defense saw to it that they didn’t take the lead in the fourth quarter.

-Larson:  A good argument can be made that it was a factor. Baltimore was rolling following the 108-yard kickoff return for a TD to start the second half. At that point a team doesn’t want any kind of break, especially 34 minutes. The adrenaline had time to wear off. The 49ers needed a break, any kind of break, to pull themselves together. A 34-minute power outage delay was perfect. Yes, the delay was a factor.

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•Question:  Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was named NFL Most Valuable Player for the 2013 season while Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was named Comeback Player of the Year. Did the voters get it right?

-Dorr: I thought that Peterson would be in the running for MVP with Peyton Manning and perhaps Tom Brady. You can make a case for Peterson winning the award but I thought it would go to a quarterback. I don’t know the requirements for voting on the comeback award. You can really make a case for Peterson winning that award, more so than Manning, to my way of thinking. But maybe the voters figured if they voted for Peterson as the MVP, they would then vote for Manning as the comeback player. Either player could have won both awards.

-Marxhausen:  I agree with the outcome of this decision 100 percent. I was hoping Peterson would get MVP after a stellar season as the best running back in the game. Peterson was just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, with 2,097 rushing yards (6 yard average per attempt). He also had 12 touchdowns and 217 receiving yards, with one receiving touchdown. Peterson lost just two fumbles all season. Peterson has had butter-finger issues in the past, but he clamped down on the ball this season. Many people gave up on him coming into the season after he tore two knee ligaments on Christmas Eve last year, but he proved all the doubters wrong with a most impressive performance. After sitting out all of last year, Peyton Manning truly deserves the honors of comeback player of the year. With doubts that he might not really be able to play the whole season, Manning came back and shoved the Broncos into first place in the AFC. Starting the season 2-3, he finished with 11 straight victories. He finished the season with 4,659 passing yards, 37 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 105.8.

-Larson:  Peterson deservedly received the MVP award and Manning probably received the comeback player honor because voters wanted to see both players honored. The voters got it right. It was neat to have Peterson presented the award with former greats Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith in attendance. Peterson, who also earned Offensive Player of the Year honors, was the first Viking to received the MVP award since quarterback Fran Tarkenton in 1975.

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Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor.millelacscotimes@ecm-inc.com or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.

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