Super Bowl 48  

 

Jacoby Jones sprints to Super Bowl glory with Baltimore Ravens

NEW ORLEANS -- Jacoby Jones took two steps, from 8 yards deep in his own end zone, and Cary Williams knew he was gone. Gone, past every player on the field. Gone, into the record books. Gone, into Superdome lore and gone, into the pantheon of players who have a rightful claim to a Super Bowl MVP award.

"That return was the game right there," said Williams, the Baltimore Ravens cornerback, still scribbling autographs an hour after his team had won Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31.

It wasn't really "the game," of course -- there was a 34-minute power outage, a 17-point San Francisco 49ers power surge and a Jim Harbaugh foot stomp, all of which happened after Jones' 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But it also kind of was. Just like Jones' first punt return, which nearly crossed the 50-yard line and set up the Ravens' first score, and just like his 56-yard catch-fall-get-up-and-juke touchdown. The moments were electric, they were dynamic and they juiced up the Ravens, whose whole postseason run was fueled by something more than just good play.

Sure, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who officially won the award on Sunday, deserves to have the MVP trophy on his mantle -- if not for his 1,140-yard, 11-touchdown, zero-interception postseason, then for his gleeful, joking postgame promise to "stick it" to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti in upcoming contract talks. But Jones deserves it, too. For his 290 total yards. For his two touchdowns. For the work ethic that made him the first Raven to head down to the Superdome on Wednesday, to practice catching punts in the lights. For the constant and contagious impish charm. For the restaurant-grade vats of home-cooking he convinced his mom to bring to the team hotel last Monday night.

"I got a ring! I'm going to Bourbon Street!" Jones rapped in the locker room, jumping around in his black bandanna and bloodied jersey.

"We are just so grateful to have him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Jones predicted this victory more than a year ago, when he was still a Houston Texan, telling Tracy Porter he'd win his first Super Bowl ring in his native New Orleans. But that was hope and bombast. Jones' mom really called the win back in Week 2, following a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Harbaugh already had boarded the team bus, but then he saw Jones talking to his mother. The coach immediately got up, climbed down the steps, stuck out his hand and introduced himself -- just like a college coach on a recruiting trip or, maybe, a man who means it when he says his players' families are his family, too.

That afternoon, Jones' mother told her son she'd be cooking dinner for Harbaugh when the Ravens came to New Orleans -- knowing full well there was only one way that would happen. Last week, before this Super Bowl win, Jones laughed while remembering it.

"She liked him that much," Jones said. "She knew he'd bring us all here."

There is definitely an "us" about the Ravens, from the 600 friends and family members who came to the team's final Saturday walk-through to the mobs of supporters that flooded the field for the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy. Ray Rice scanned the crowd frantically, saying, "Where's my daughter?" Two smaller women hugged big Bryant McKinnie around the waist, one saying, "We're Terrell Suggs' aunties." Torrey Smith's three younger brothers -- one a mirror image of him, the other two images of each other -- wearing patches in honor of the brother they lost in September, refused to leave their biggest brother's orbit. "He's always been the strongest," Trey said.

It was a family game, what with the two brothers facing off and the brother-in-law, Indiana coach Tom Crean, taking pictures of his wife and sisters-in-law and assorted nieces and nephews in the corner of the Ravens' end zone before kickoff. Jack and Jackie Harbaugh sat for interviews about their sons, and John told jokes about Jim, 15 months younger than him, cheating at cards when they were kids. And in getting to that family game, the Ravens were a family team, one Jones said was unlike any he'd ever experienced.

Jones said he loved Houston and was happy there, but in Baltimore, he said, "I found family. We're all brothers. That's why."

That's why the Ravens went on this postseason run, knocking out Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck the first week, Peyton Manning the next week and then the supposedly-invincible Tom Brady in the AFC title game. That's why the Ravens didn't slump after losing four of their last five regular-season games, why they overcame potentially season-killing injuries, why they withstood a late 49ers barrage and why Jones could happily dub his fellow receivers "The Avengers" -- and get each one to guess the identity he'd assigned them.

Jones said he was never nervous and, like fellow New Orleanian Ed Reed, never thought he needed words to tell his teammates this city would be their home. He said he couldn't care less about an MVP trophy ("I have a Super Bowl ring!"), and he raved about Flacco, saying three times, "That's my quarterback!"

Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell called Jones' hometown win "a storybook ending," while McKinnie more plainly called Jones "our spark" before saying, "Did you see how fast he ran?"

He simply ran to daylight, as Jones would later say. A mere 5-foot-7 on his high school graduation day, Jones, who is now 6-2, jokes that he still runs like a little guy. He said that both of Sunday's touchdowns were bigger than the 70-yard score he hauled in near the end of regulation in the divisional round at Denver, a touchdown catch that tied the game and sank Manning's own storybook ending.

Jones did a New Orleans tribute dance after his first touchdown on Sunday, then honored the retiring Ray Lewis with a version of Lewis' "Squirrel Dance" after the second. And he had a hug for everyone after it all.

"It's guys like him that make this team," Williams said later. "Smiling, happy and giving it everything they have."

Follow Aditi Kinkhabwala on Twitter @AKinkhabwala.

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