Keeping Score

Bad Lights, Bad Refs, Bad Sportsmanship: 5 Lingering Super Bowl Questions

Though the big game is over, there's still plenty to talk about.

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Matt Slocum / AP

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans.

Super Bowl XLVII is behind us, but Baltimore’s 34-31 win over San Francisco is the kind of game people will keep talking about all off-season – and beyond. (And not just because of these awful commercials) Here are five questions the sports world be debating all summer:

1. Why exactly was there a power outage?  

It was an odd Super Bowl (I’ve already written about the wonderful weirdness that was Sunday night). But things turned downright surreal in the Superdome when the lights went out early in the third quarter, causing a 34 minute delay. So what happened? According to the AP:

A joint statement from Entergy New Orleans, which provides power to the stadium, and Superdome operator SMG shed some light on the chain of events, which apparently started at the spot where Entergy feeds power into the stadium’s lines. The problem occurred shortly after Beyoncé put on a halftime show that featured extravagant lighting and video effects.

“A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” the statement said. “Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue. … Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality.” (Read the full report)

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said “in the coming days, I expect a full after-action report from all parties involved.”

Hopefully, such a report will solve a crucial riddle: Is Beyoncé at all to blame?

2. In the game’s deciding moments, why did San Francisco ditch the Pistol?

San Francisco trailed 34-29 in the game’s waning moments, and had the ball on Baltimore’s seven-yard-line. First down. “I was sitting there thinking there’s no way,” says Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. “There’s no way we stop them here.”

The Ravens did, thanks in part to San Francisco’s oddball play-calling. San Francisco running back Frank Gore had 110-yards rushing in the Super Bowl, and averaged a robust 5.8 yards per carry. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had run for 62 yards in the game, on 8.9 yards per carry. And yet, with the championship on the line, neither player used their legs on those final four plays.

The “Pistol” offense, with Kaepernick reading — and fooling — the defense, and deciding to hand it to Gore or run it himself, fell silent. A handoff to LaMichael James produced a two-yard gain. Then, Kaepernick tried three straight passes to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and each missed. The final one, on fourth down, was especially questionable: Kaepernick chucked it to the side of the end zone on a fade pattern, where Crabtree had little room to maneuver.

The Niners hinged their Super Bowl hopes on a jump ball, but Kaepernick overthrew it. The play never had a chance.

3. But wasn’t there holding on that final play?

San Francisco fans have a legitimate beef: although that final play from scrimmage was badly designed, Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith appeared to hold Crabtree. Should a flag have been thrown? My take: I had a pretty good view of that play from inside the Superdome, and saw that the official was in a great position to make the call. He was staring it down the whole way. I think he held the flag because it was obvious that even if Smith was nowhere near Crabtree, the receiver wasn’t going to catch that ball. Kaepernick, who was blitzed by the Baltimore defense and under pressure, just overthrew him. Good call. San Francisco fans: feel free to rail on me in the comments.

4. Was Jim Harbaugh a bad sport after the game?

The winning coach, John Harbaugh, spent the postgame praising his younger brother – Jim, coach of the 49ers. John called Jim the best coach in the NFL, talked about how he was devastated that a family member had to suffer a Super Bowl loss. Jim, on the other hand, griped about the refs. “I really want to handle this with class,” he said, “[but] there is no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and a hold on Crabtree on the last one.”

I’ll give Jim a pass on this one: he’s an intense guy, and his team just lost the Super Bowl. Brotherly love didn’t need to be on his mind. Sure they’ll bro-hug it out later.

5. But seriously, that power outage – could it cost New Orleans a future Super Bowl?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had to be sweating out the power outage Sunday night. It was eerie, and seemed to drag on forever. You couldn’t help but wonder if the NFL was about to face unprecedented disaster. Lights are not always easy to turn on, especially in a 70,000 seat stadium. What was the league going to do? Wait it out until midnight? Make everyone come back the next day? Super Bowl Sunday, finished on a Monday? The horror!

Luckily, things got sorted out just in time. But will the league risk coming back to the Superdome for the big game? At a press conference Monday morning, Goodell said the blackout would have no impact on future New Orleans bids – the city plans on bidding for the 2018 Super Bowl. I hope, and bet, that Goodell sticks to his word here. New Orleans is the perfect host city. The residents could not be friendlier, everything is convenient, the food and fun seemed to put everyone in a good mood. You can make a case for making the Big Easy the Super Bowl’s permanent home.

Prediction: the Super Bowl will be back in New Orleans. Sans blackout. As for Beyoncé …