When the lights went out, the teams turned it on. There might have been a power failure in the Superdome, but there was plenty of juice on the field.
In a Super Bowl that featured everything, the Baltimore Ravens outgunned the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.
John Harbaugh bested his brother Jim in the coaching match-up. Joe Cool, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, out-dueled Colin the Kid, Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Big plays, big hits, a big interruption due to a power failure and lots of electricity in the second half — it was as exciting a finish as you can imagine, considering the way it started.
The biggest question starting the game was, “Was the stage too big for the rookie QB Kaepernick?” Could he hold up to the pressure and survive Baltimore’s defense? Would San Francisco wake up, realize where they were and fall apart? Would Baltimore’s aging defense falter? Could the Ravens’ quarterback move to the status of elite?
At one point you thought panic had set in and the answers were yes, yes and yes, especially when the Ravens took a 28-6 lead early in the third quarter on Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half.
But, a power failure stopped the game for 34 minutes right after that score. Maybe it was Beyonce’s powerful-sensual-sensational halftime show. Maybe it was divine intervention.
Maybe it was what San Francisco needed. They promptly reeled off 17 points in 4:14 to climb back into the game and set the stage for a wild fourth quarter.
Kaepernick threw big passes, Frank Gore gashed Baltimore for big runs, Vernon Davis caught balls and suddenly San Francisco was back in it. They cut the lead to 31-29, but failed on a two-point conversion. The Ravens answered with a long field goal and held on to win.
It was fascinating to see. The Ravens chasing, the 49ers surviving and the NFL breathing easier, at one point fearing they might have to suspend the game if the outside power source could not be turned back on.
Once play began, the two teams gave the fans enough electricity to light up the building.
No one played any defense after the first quarter. The Niners blitzed early causing Flacco problems. Baltimore’s defense choked off the run game, making San Fran throw a lot. But, in the end, it was the quarterbacks who made the game go, the way it has been all year.
Flacco was the MVP with another amazing performance of 387 yards passing and three scores. He finished the postseason with road wins at Denver, at New England and in New Orleans. He wound up with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in that three-game span.
Kaepernick, the rookie from Nevada-Reno, rallied after a case of the shakes, finishing with 302 yards passing, but one touchdown.
It might well have been a San Francisco victory had officials thrown what should have been a likely pass interference penalty in the end zone on the final fourth down pass to Michael Crabtree. The entire world saw a defensive hold that went seven yards deep into the end zone.It would have given the Niners a first down at the goal line and a chance to win it there.
It was a night for offense. The Ravens’ big body wide receiver Anquan Boldin had another huge night of huge catches. For the Niners, Gore ran for 110 yards and the Davis-Crabtree combo made plays all evening — 11 receptions for 213 yards.
Of course, San Francisco might not have needed the final penalty flag to win. They missed an open receiver in the end zone from the eight yard line; fumbled at the Ravens 25; threw a costly interception at the 38; and ran out of downs on the final series with the ball at the 5-yard line.
They had their chances.
A night of frantic offensive plays, faltering defenses and a failure in the light system — can you imagine the feelings of the old coach and father, Jack Harbaugh and his wife, cheering for John in the Baltimore locker room, feeling sad for Jim on the Niners side?
It has been a wild ride of a season for the NFL. It started with the controversial referees’ lockout, traveled through a ton of upsets in the postseason, was marred by the horrors of lawsuits and a player’s suicide and ended with an enormous outcry that the Rooney Rule failed.
It was capped with as great a game script anyone could write.
The fight for survival in the final minutes of the season saw two of the best go at it. Some will say San Francisco was robbed; others will say Baltimore stole one away.
The Ravens won, the Niners lost and football fans around the nation got their money’s worth.
It is why the NFL, despite its problems, owns the sports world the way it does.
Some Sunday night shootout of a show.
When does next season begin?