NEW ORLEANS -- Joe Flacco's year began with what seemed to be an overly optimistic assessment. Even a foolhardy one.
Asked on a radio show last April if he was a top-five quarterback, Flacco went one better: "I don't think I'm top five, I think I'm the best. I don't think I'd be very successful at my job if I didn't feel that way."
Doesn't seem so ridiculous now, does it?
Flacco is the best -- at least for this season. He led the Ravens to a 34-31 win over the 49ers Sunday night and won MVP honors for Super Bowl XLVII.
Flacco put together a brilliant first half, throwing three touchdown passes to stake the Ravens to a 21-6 lead. They held on for a wild ride in the second half, as the 49ers rallied from a 28-6 deficit after a 35-minute delay following a blackout in the Superdome.
"I think it's fitting we won that way," Flacco said. "We are a tough, blue-collar city, and that's the way our games kind of come down. We were up 28-6 . . . And the next thing you know, the Niners get right back into it and play great football, and we had to grind it out."
Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and a 124.2 rating. He finished the postseason with 11 TD passes and no interceptions, joining Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only quarterbacks to have at least nine TD passes and no picks in a postseason.
It couldn't have come at a better time. Flacco's contract is up, and he has maximum negotiating leverage. But before he thinks about money, he can revel in the fact that he was a money quarterback when it counted.
"We've been put in those [tough] situations, so when they come up, we don't know if we are going to be successful in them," he said. "But the bottom line is that the moment doesn't get too big. We're comfortable. We've been there before.''
The 49ers nearly went ahead in the final minutes, and Flacco thought he'd have to put together one last comeback drive. "I'm thinking, 'Eh, those guys are probably going to put the ball in the end zone and we're going to have to go down to kick a field goal to either tie it or win it.' "
He never had to. The Ravens ran out all but the final four seconds as punter Sam Koch took a safety. They tackled Ted Ginn Jr. at midfield on the free kick and celebrated the franchise's second Super Bowl win.
"Crazy. Unbelievable," Flacco said. "I don't even think that it has sunk in that we're here. Pretty cool."