With only an hour and a half of sleep, Joe Flacco was still sharp enough the morning following his brilliant performance in Super Bowl XLVII to realize that the Ravens' victory over the 49ers Sunday night changed his life dramatically.
It started almost immediately after the 34-31 win when Flacco, the former star quarterback at South Jersey's Audubon High School, was named the Super Bowl most valuable player. It culminated later that night when he met Beyonce and Jay Z at a postgame party.
"I don't think that would happen if we would have lost the game," Flacco said of meeting the first couple of hip-hop.
And then a few hours later, the enormity of his accomplishment hit the 28-year-old quarterback who had taken an underdog's path to NFL stardom through the University of Delaware.
"Just laying in bed, I was exhausted and couldn't wait to put my head down on that pillow. And for some reason, when I was laying there I couldn't quite fall asleep and just kind of had my eyes open in disbelief a little bit," Flacco said on Monday.
Flacco visited with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and was paraded through Disney World on Monday, then chatted with David Letterman in New York that night. The whirlwind will last for months and include a new baby -- he announced that his wife, Dana, was expecting their second child -- and likely a new contract.
"He's a guy that no matter what happens, no matter what criticism he felt in front of him, no matter what disappointments he might have, he steps up and he bounces back, and he comes back and goes to work," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he'll be the same with this success."
Flacco ended contract extension talks before the season and stands to earn millions of dollars more because of the gamble. His five-year deal expires in March. The Ravens could place their franchise tag on Flacco, but his Super Bowl victory all but guarantees that his team will give him a new deal in line with other elite quarterbacks.
"I'm pretty optimistic, but who knows?" Flacco said. "There's all kinds of crazy things that can happen with these contracts that we've all seen before. But this is a great organization. I love being [in Baltimore] . . . so I don't really anticipate any problems."
Flacco became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw as many as 11 touchdowns in one postseason without tossing an interception, joining Joe Montana. Told after the game of the select company he was in, Flacco was elated, he said, because Montana was his favorite quarterback growing up.
He completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns and made one wise decision after another Sunday night. Flacco has had to endure questions about his "elite" status for years. They reached a crescendo in December after the Ravens dropped three straight.
In the Dec. 16 loss to the Broncos, Flacco threw a momentum-changing interception that was returned 98 yards, and two weeks later the Ravens limped into the playoffs.
"It was just one of those things, and it may look like a turning point, but I think our team is playing pretty well, even during that stretch when we lost some of those games, and sometimes they get blown out of proportion," Flacco said.
Flacco and the Ravens, who held a 28-6 lead early in the second half Sunday, survived a 34-minute delay after the Superdome power failure. The 49ers scored 17 straight points after electricity was restored and eventually trimmed Baltimore's lead to two.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that stadium operators were still searching for the cause of the blackout, but he said that Beyonce's halftime show was not believed to be the reason.
Harbaugh was caught on camera yelling at event officials on the sideline during the outage.
"I was just concerned about some things that had to do with the headsets and coaches in the press box and if you have to bring guys down," he said. "It was really stuff that was never going to be an issue because they handled it so well. A total overreaction on my part, and I feel bad about it."
Harbaugh won the hyped battle with his brother, Jim, who coaches the 49ers. Asked on Monday if he would watch a replay of the game with his brother, John Harbaugh said, "Absolutely not."
Jim Harbaugh complained after the game about the officiating, especially on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's fourth-down pass to Michael Crabtree. He said he thought pass interference should have been called.
But no one could deny that Flacco was unflappable. He'll now have to deal with being famous on another level.
"If you say there's going to be some kind of celebrity with it, I'm cool with that. But I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable with it," Flacco said. "I kind of like to go about my business. The people in Baltimore have always been great, so it'll be cool to go back there and just kind of see their reaction that our whole team gets when we get back there."
Baltimore will hold its parade on Tuesday, and Audubon will surely honor its famous native son sometime soon.
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