NEW ORLEANS — What a sensational way to close out the season for Jacoby Jones.
The Baltimore Ravens’ All-Pro return man was at his best in the Super Bowl on Sunday, first hauling in a 56-yard touchdown pass and then amazing the Superdome crowd with a record 108-yard kickoff return for a score — matching the longest play in NFL history in any game, regular or postseason.
The scores put the Ravens way ahead before the 49ers rallied, but Baltimore held them off for a 34-31 win.
And Jones did it in his hometown, where his mother cooked meals for the team during their stay in New Orleans.
“It’s a great feeling man. It’s what you work for through the offseason,” said Jones. “Through the camp, many camps, through grind and sweat, the cold tub and the hot tubs — all of that has paid off right here.”
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound speedster, who went to Lane College in Tennessee, set four Super Bowl records and equaled two others. He now has the marks for most combined yards (290), longest play, longest kickoff return and longest kickoff return for a touchdown.
He had five kickoff returns for 206 yards, two punt returns for 28 yards and caught one pass for 56 yards.
In the AFC title game two weeks earlier against Denver, Jones was on the receiving end of Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds that forced overtime and led to a Ravens double overtime victory.
On his TD catch, Jones got behind Chris Culliver late in the first half and hauled in a pass from Joe Flacco before falling down. He quickly got back up and worked his way into the end zone for the score. He then opened the second half with his return to put the Ravens ahead 28-6.
“The passes,” he said. “It was just all the plays we ran through in practice. The line did a great job of blocking and Joe put up a decent throw for me to catch.”
What about that return?
“All year we’ve been running along the sideline on the return” said Jones. “They did not expect us to run it down the middle. … That’s my favorite return.”
During the season, he averaged 30.7 yards on 38 kickoff returns, tops in NFL, and had two scores, one covering 108 yards.
Jones was 5-7, 160 pounds — “with bricks in my pockets,” he said — when he graduated high school, walked on at Lane and said he just “took off.”
“I’ve been an underdog all my life,” he said.
Now he’ll get a Super Bowl ring.
Close, but no Lombardi
The biggest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points. The San Francisco 49ers were on the verge of rallying from a 22-point deficit but fell short in a 34-31 loss to the Ravens.
That allowed Baltimore to become the 21st Super Bowl winner to never trail in the game. Joe Flacco’s 13-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead early on, and the 49ers got as close as 31-29.
The last wire-to-wire winner was Green Bay in its 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in the 2011 Super Bowl.
Twitter kept its own Super Bowl stats, and following the game said there were about 22.1 million total tweets about the game and halftime show, including 5.5 million during Beyonce’s halftime performance.
The players most mentioned on the site, in order, where Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick and Jacoby Jones.
The subject that generated the most intense activity, generated in tweets per minute, was Beyonce’s halftime show, with the frequency of tweets rising as high as 268,000 per minute at the conclusion of the show.
The power outage in the Superdome, which caused a 34-minute delay early in the third quarter, generated as many as 231,500 per minute, the most at any point other than halftime during the game.
Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown generated 185,000 tweets per minute, even more than when the clock struck zero and the Ravens had won, which rose as high as 183,000 per minute.
Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger found a unique way to celebrate the first of his two sacks Sunday night.
After collaring 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Kruger waved his fingers and arms as if he was conducting an orchestra.
“I’d like to be a maestro after I (retire),” he said with a grin. “That’s just what came to mind, I don’t know.”
Kruger, who becomes a free agent during the offseason, finished with 4½ sacks in the playoffs after getting nine during the regular season.
His first one Sunday night forced the 49ers to settle for a field-goal try on their second possession.
“I just got a good jump on it,” he said. “I’ve been working on getting off the ball fast, and I came around, was able to get around the guy and get the sack.”
49ers cornerback Chris Culliver got beat by Anquan Boldin all night.
“I don’t care if they was targeting me or not,” Culliver said. “They wasn’t getting open except for the deep plays.”
Except for the fact the Ravens’ talented wideouts — along with MVP Joe Flacco — made the biggest difference in Baltimore’s 34-31 Super Bowl win. Boldin had six catches for 104 yards, including a 30-yarder in which he blew past Culliver late in the third quarter. That set up Justin Tucker’s 19-yard field goal early in the fourth.
“Cully’s been a competitor,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “He had a tough one, but I’m still behind him.”
Culliver’s week began with anti-gay remarks at media day, then a Thursday news conference to apologize. He also signed up for sensitivity training through an organization for homosexual youth.
“He said what he said. He apologized. He moved on and the team moved on,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “I just told him, ‘Hey, keep your head up. Keep fighting.’ If you play that position, you’re going to give up lays. That’s just part of it.”
The Superdome has been a tough place to play for San Francisco offensive lineman Alex Boon and Niners linebacker Larry Grant.
The pair have now played in both a college national championship game and for a Super Bowl title in New Orleans, losing both times.
Boone and Grant also were on the 2007-08 Ohio State squad that lost to LSU, 38-24, in the BCS title game.
So pardon the pair if they don’t relate to the common New Orleans refrain, “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” which is Cajun French for, “Let the good times roll.”
“It sucks to lose, especially in the last game of the year,” Boone said. “You always want to win the last one.”
Two in a row
Courtney Upshaw has this title thing down.
The Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker added a Super Bowl title to the BCS championship he won last year with Alabama. And, not to be greedy, but he’s already dreaming of a three-peat.
“It’s the NFL,” he said. “We want to get back to it next year.”