NEW ORLEANS — A third-quarter power failure seemed to affect the Baltimore offense as much as the electricity that lights the Superdome, but the Ravens recovered to win the Super Bowl.
The Ravens nearly blew a 22-point lead before holding off the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 Sunday night, winning the NFL championship with a late goal-line stand.
The historic matchup between coaching brothers, John Harbaugh of the Ravens and Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers, was a blowout until the Baltimore offense spent 84 real-time minutes on the sideline due to a long halftime show, a record 108-yard kickoff return by the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones to start the second half, the power failure and a San Francisco offensive drive.
In the fourth quarter, though, after the 49ers cut the margin to two points, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco directed a clock-eating, 5 1/2-minute drive that led to a field goal and a 34-29 lead.
The 49ers, who won all five of their previous Super Bowls, regained the ball with 4:19 remaining, needing a touchdown. They almost got it.
“It was pretty cool,” said Flacco, who was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘There’s no way, there’s no way we stop them here.’ But we did, and that’s what our defense is all about.”
With quarterback Colin Kaepernick throwing 24 yards to Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore squeezing through a small hole for a 33-yard gain, the 49ers reached the Ravens’ 7-yard line with 2 1/2 minutes to go.
Gore ran 2 yards to the 5 as the 49ers allowed the clock to run down to two minutes.
Kaepernick then aimed three consecutive passes at Crabtree, and all of them were incomplete, the last an apparent no-chance throw that sailed out of the rear corner of the end zone, beyond Crabtree’s reach.
Jim Harbaugh said he wanted “to handle (the loss to his brother) with class and grace,” then added, “There’s no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one.”
With 12 seconds remaining, John Harbaugh, a former special teams coach, told punter Sam Koch to run around in the end zone and use as much time as he could before stepping out of bounds. The 49ers, who set up a return, were slow to chase Koch, and eight seconds elapsed before he conceded the intentional safety.
The game ended after the free kick that follows a safety. Ted Ginn Jr. took the return 31 yards to midfield before he was dragged down, sparking the Ravens’ celebrations.
“It’s unbelievable,” Flacco said. “We don’t make it easy. That’s the way the city of Baltimore is. That’s the way we are.”
Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, with all of the scoring passes coming in the first half. He tied a single-postseason record set by 49ers legend Joe Montana, throwing 11 touchdown passes without an interception. Flacco also set a record by throwing 126 passes without an interception in the postseason.
Baltimore is now the only team to win more than one Super Bowl without losing one. That record previously belonged to the 49ers, who were 5-0 in Super Bowls and never had thrown an interception in one until Kaepernick was picked off in the second quarter. Kaepernick finished with 16 completions in 28 attempts for 302 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also gained 62 yards on seven carries.
For Flacco, the championship and his performance could not have come at a better time. His contract is up, and he stands to collect a huge payday, whether the Ravens sign him to a long-term extension or tag him as their franchise player.
His touchdown passes went to three different receivers, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Jones, who made a catch while falling backward, then eluded defenders to complete a 56-yard play. Boldin caught six passes for 104 yards, several extending drives as the Ravens converted nine of 16 third-down plays into first downs.
The 71,024 fans in the Superdome were left in low light — but not darkness — when the power failed with 13:22 remaining in the third quarter. At the time, the Ravens led 28-6, but the 49ers seemed revitalized and the Ravens cooled down following the 34-minute delay.
John Harbaugh did not blame the lack of electricity for the momentum shift, pointing out, “Both teams had to deal with it.”
“I thought they dealt with it better, obviously,” he said. “They were able to turn the momentum of the game.”
The Ravens, who gained 241 yards in the first half, managed only 126 in the second half. The 49ers, who had 182 yards at halftime, gained 286 in the second half.
Near the end of the third quarter, the 49ers scored on three consecutive possessions to make it a 28-23 game. First, they drove 80 yards in seven plays, with Kaepernick throwing a 31-yard touchdown to Crabtree. Then, following a 32-yard punt return by Ginn to the Baltimore 20-yard line, the 49ers required only two plays to score, Kaepernick throwing to Vernon Davis for 14 yards before Gore (19 carries, 110 yards) ran it in from the 6.
After an exchange of field goals made the score 31-23, Kaepernick drove the 49ers to another touchdown, throwing 32 yards to Randy Moss, then scrambling in himself from the 15. However, the two-point conversion pass for a tie failed, the Ravens still led 31-29. That’s when Baltimore produced its time-killing drive that yielded a field goal.
Ray Lewis, the Baltimore linebacker who is retiring following a great 17-year career, was not a factor in the game. The MVP of the Super Bowl following the 2000 season, Lewis was credited with four tackles and three assists Sunday. Several players spoke warmly of Lewis afterward, and he called the career-ending victory “the greatest feeling ever.”
A pending free agent, Flacco could be headed toward the $20 million-per-season mark he is reportedly seeking if he can work out a deal with the Ravens. The team would place the franchise tag on Flacco if a multiyear deal isn’t reached.
In either case, there is no argument Flacco has elevated himself into the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks. It’s ironic that in a season in which three first-year starters electrified the league through the read-option, Flacco, a traditional big-armed, drop-back passer, showed off that arm and some surprisingly nimble footwork in the pocket to come up with clutch completion after clutch completion.
Flacco will command big money in the offseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has faced this situation before. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata all received multiyear contracts to remain in Baltimore in the past. Running back Ray Rice received the franchise tag last year, but the sides agreed on a lucrative multiyear deal just before the deadline last June.
“Joe and I are at the same comfort level about his contract,” Newsome said midweek. “At the end of the day, some people will look at what he does on Sunday afternoon, but I have an entire body of work to look at. Joe sits right behind me on the plane rides home.
“I also know how he practices, how he works out during the offseason. I look to see how he interacts with players, how he reacts to losing, what type of leader he is. Again, it’s the entire body of work over five years.”