The Baltimore Ravens survived the most unlikely element to beat San Francisco 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday night at the Superdome.
Just when the Ravens had the game in hand, a power outage struck the Superdome, knocking out lights and delaying the game for 34 minutes. When play resumed, the San Francisco 49ers, down 28-6 early in the third quarter, staged a furious comeback that ended with a Ravens goal-line stand with less than 2 minutes in regulation.
“We talk to our guys all the time,” said coach John Harbaugh. “It’s never pretty, it’s never perfect, but that was us.”
Super Bowl XLVII was to be known more for the historic meeting between the two brothers coaching each team, Harbaugh and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, but the effect of the darkened field overshadowed every story line. That included the final game of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and the matchup of young quarterbacks Joe Flacco of the Ravens, who was voted the game’s MVP, and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers.
Moments after Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones gave the Ravens a 28-6 lead by returning the second half kickoff 108 yards for the longest play in Super Bowl history, the lights went out in the Superdome, a 37-year-old building that underwent renovations after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Players milled around the field during the delay, some 49ers and Ravens even chatted with each other while others stretched and rested during the unprecedented development.
The stoppage seemed to invigorate the 49ers, while the Ravens went flat.
“It was a distraction,” said Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers scored 17 points in a span of 3 minutes, 50 seconds of the third quarter and pulled to within 28-23.
“When it was 28-6, I knew, with Jim Harbaugh on the other sideline, that game was going to be a dogfight at the end,” said John Harbaugh. “There’s no greater competitor, no greater coach in the NFL or in the world than Jim Harbaugh. The way that played proved it.
“Both teams had to deal with (the power outage). Actually, I thought they dealt with it better, obviously. They were able to turn the momentum of the game.”
Maybe it was because the 49ers have experienced this before.
“We had a similar situation in our stadium when we played against Pittsburgh on ‘Monday Night Football’ and we came out on fire,” 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley said. “I felt we were going to make that a game and it would come down to the end.”
Kaepernick, making just his 10th NFL start, shook off some first-half jitters. His 15-yard touchdown on a keeper drew the 49ers to within 31-29 with 9:57 left in regulation, but his pass intended for Randy Moss on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game sailed high.
The Ravens, with Boldin making some key catches on throws from Flacco, moved the chains just enough to get Justin Tucker in position for a 38-yard field goal with 4:19 to play, giving Baltimore a 34-29 lead.
“The (emergency) lights were still good when the lights went out,” said Flacco, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, with all the TD throws in the first half before the power outage. “The receivers were going to be able to see the ball. The biggest issue was the headsets. There was some discussion about what we would do if they didn’t get them back on. The 49ers were able to get their offense going and got some momentum.”
The 49ers, who overcame deficits of 17-0 and 24-14 in the NFC Championship Game at Atlanta, had plenty of time to pull off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history when they took over at their 20 following Tucker’s field goal.
Even Flacco expected the 49ers to forge ahead, especially after San Francisco running back Frank Gore swept left and rumbled 33 yards before he was shoved out of bounds at the Ravens 7 with 2:39 to play.
“To be honest, I thought they’re going to put the ball in the end zone, and we’re going to have to go back out there and have to tie it or win it, depending if they got the two-point conversion,” Flacco said.
After a run by LaMichael James to the 5, which took the clock down to the 2-minute warning, Kaepernick, who threw for 302 yards and ran for 110 more, threw three consecutive incomplete passes intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and the Ravens took over with 1:46 to play.
“How else can you finish that off but with a goal-line stand?” said Lewis, who finished his 17th NFL season with his second Super Bowl title. “We kept them out of the end zone on the 5-yard line. That is championship football.”
The Ravens still had to kill off the final 1:46, and after three runs melted the clock to 12 seconds, Baltimore called time, and Harbaugh, a former special-teams coach, ordered punter Sam Koch to run around in the end zone and take a safety rather than risk a blocked punt or big return by San Francisco’s dangerous Ted Ginn Jr.
And when the game ended following Koch’s free kick that Ginn could only return to midfield, the Harbaughs met at midfield.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said John Harbaugh. “I told him I loved him. He said, ‘Congratulations.’ ”