NEW ORLEANS — The lights went out at the Superdome during the Super Bowl. Only then did the game really begin.
In a sporting event that has had spectacular finishes as well as an infamous wardrobe malfunction during a halftime performance, the electricity at the Superdome stole the show on Sunday night, interrupting the third quarter for more than a half-hour and seemingly shifting the momentum of the game in a dramatic way.
Moments after the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown, giving Baltimore a 22-point lead, the stadium’s power failed. That plunged the teams, the 71,024 fans in attendance and millions of television viewers into low light and raised the sort of question that sports fans love to ponder: how might such a weird interruption affect the game?
After 34 minutes in which players stretched, fans did the wave and Ravens Coach John Harbaugh screamed at a league official in a suit, play resumed, and the teams had their answer. The energy had leaked out of the Ravens during the unexpected break, allowing the San Francisco 49ers to surge to within 2 points, but Baltimore held on for a 34-31 victory.
It was the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina turned the Superdome into a shelter instead of a stadium, and the first time brothers opposed each other in the game as coaches. Jim Harbaugh, who at 49 is a year younger than John, saw his 49ers come up short on a last-minute drive inside the Ravens’ 10-yard line.
“How could it be any other way?” John Harbaugh said after the Ravens captured their second Super Bowl title. “It’s never pretty. It’s never perfect. But it is us.”
When they were growing up, the Harbaugh brothers learned about coaching by watching their father. From their mother, though, they learned something that might help them on the day after the Super Bowl: always have your brother’s back.
When they met at midfield as the confetti fell for John’s team, Jim patted his older brother on the cheek. “I love you,” John said, not smiling. “Good job.”
Future Harbaugh family gatherings will have plenty of material for conversation.
The Ravens dominated the first half, with quarterback Joe Flacco, who was named the game’s most valuable player, nimbly escaping pressure to throw three touchdown passes, including a 56-yarder to Jones on third-and-10. On that play, Jones fell when he caught the ball at about the 9-yard line, got up and outsprinted the 49ers’ defense to the end zone.
After the 49ers settled for a short field goal at the end of the first half and Jones opened the second half with his touchdown return, it appeared the Ravens would cruise to victory, a triumph of the older brother who had long been overshadowed athletically by his younger sibling. No team had ever overcome a deficit of more than 10 points to win the Super Bowl.
But the 49ers have been slow to start throughout the postseason, gaining energy as gradually as the stadium lights did. This was the third straight playoff game in which the 49ers’ opponent scored first, and the long game delay seemed to steal the Ravens’ momentum and give the 49ers a few minutes to regroup from the shock of Jones’s return. They had experience with this, after all. The power had gone out at Candlestick Park, their home stadium, last season during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 49ers won that game.
Colin Kaepernick threw to Michael Crabtree for the 49ers’ first touchdown. When running back Frank Gore ran around the right side for another touchdown, the Ravens appeared flatfooted. Then Ravens running back Ray Rice fumbled after a short catch, and the 49ers recovered.
The Ravens continued to hurt themselves, committing a penalty on 49ers kicker David Akers — on a field-goal attempt that he missed wide left, giving Akers another chance. Akers drilled the field goal on the second try and the deficit, 5 points, suddenly felt like a lead.
Kaepernick had recovered as surely as his team had. He had appeared shaky in the first half, and he was intercepted once by Ed Reed — the first time a 49ers quarterback had been intercepted in Super Bowl history.
But the Ravens were resilient, again. They had begun the season well, positioning themselves for a playoff spot before their offense sputtered so severely that they lost four of their last five regular-season games. In the midst of that slide, John Harbaugh fired his offensive coordinator and replaced him with Jim Caldwell. Caldwell engineered the powerful offensive efforts that had allowed the Ravens to outgun the Colts, the Broncos and the Patriots — and their three star quarterbacks — in the playoffs.
So when the Ravens got the ball back after the 49ers’ onslaught, they went on a long, methodical drive that gave their aging defense a chance to catch its breath and, after a 19-yard field goal, gave the Ravens an 8-point edge.
Then Kaepernick used his legs, sprinting 15 yards for a touchdown. But with 9 minutes 57 seconds left in the game, Jim Harbaugh opted to try for a 2-point conversion to tie the score. With a running quarterback in Kaepernick, and Frank Gore lined up beside him, the 49ers tried to pass for the 2 points. Kaepernick had to hurry, and he threw the ball wildly away, leaving the 49ers down by 2 points.
The Ravens kicked another field goal, this one from 38 yards, that gave them a 5-point lead. Players from both teams later insisted that the power delay had little to do with the game, but that seemed implausible. The Ravens had nearly collapsed, and only a wayward Kaepernick pass on fourth down under intense pressure with less than two minutes remaining saved the Ravens from ignominy.
“It was like the whole season,” Reed, a native of the New Orleans area, said. “It started good. It got ugly. It ended great.”
When the seconds had finally ticked away, the large strobe lights behind the benches beamed bright. They illuminated the sparkling confetti and a Ravens championship as unlikely as the night on which it was won.
Source: The Times