Well, that just happened.
How odd, confusing and thrilling was Super Bowl XLVII? Start with that nutty fake field goal. In the second quarter, instead of kicking a chip-shot field goal that would have put Baltimore up by two touchdowns, the Ravens tried to pull a fast one: kicker Justin Tucker took a direct snap on a 4th and 9 and ran to the left side. He got eight yards and zero points, and the San Francisco 49ers now had the ball.
But that didn’t cost Baltimore, because the Ravens then forced a San Francisco four-and-out. After Baltimore got the ball back, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco connected with wide receiver Jacoby Jones on a 56-yard touchdown strike. “That’s why I call him Smoking Joe,” Jones said of Flacco afterwards.
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Jones fell on his rear on that catch, but no 49er bothered touching him. He then got up and scampered into the end zone, and Baltimore went into halftime with a 21-6 lead.
After the Beyoncé show, Baltimore started the second half with the longest play in Super Bowl history — Jones ran back a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown — and was now up 28-6. It had been, what, a decade since we saw a Super Bowl blowout? Ack, we were probably due, even it was taking place against a team regarded as four-point favorites.
Then, the blackout: a Superdome power outage caused a 34-minute delay that sent kids to school bleary-eyed. (At 4 hrs. 14 min., it would be the longest Super Bowl ever.) “We will be starting the game shortly,” the announcer kept telling the Superdome crowd, though the game didn’t start shortly. “We didn’t know,” says Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard of the power outage. “We kept hearing 20 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. That’s the first time I had to stretch, in the dark, with teammates. Going over drills. It was crazy.”
Great: a power outage was going to delay an already lopsided Super Bowl. Can this just end already?
The lights came back on. In case that wasn’t clear, the NFL distributed a statement from a Superdome spokesman who said, “Power has been restored,” after the game already restarted and the lights were shining in everyone’s face.
But then San Francisco made it a game — in a heartbeat, it seemed. The Ravens punt. San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree streaks down the sideline to catch a 31-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick; 28-13 Baltimore. Another Baltimore punt. A 32-yard return deep into Baltimore territory, then Frank Gore runs right around the Baltimore defense for a six-yard touchdown; 28-20. Baltimore running back Ray Rice fumbles: San Francisco recovers, and a David Akers field goal makes it 28-23 Ravens. In about four minutes, San Francisco scores 17 unanswered points.
“Honestly, for myself, I was a little stiff when I got back out there,” Rice says about the delay’s impact. Baltimore’s offense was sidelined for over an hour. The halftime show kept the players in the locker room longer than usual, and they hadn’t taken the field in the second half before the outage, since Jones ran back the opening kickoff for a TD. (Then again, San Francisco’s defense was sidelined for an hour too, and it didn’t look so stiff.) “Was it tough getting back out there?” says Rice. “It was pretty tough.”
During the blackout, an exasperated John Harbaugh went ballistic on an official. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs jokingly suggested that the Niners pulled the plug on the Superdome lights. “I thought old Jim Harbaugh had a little trick under his sleeve,” says Suggs. “He ran into a Ravens buzz saw. He was like, ‘Hey, turn those lights off. Red team go, red team go.’ “
Red team kept going in the fourth; a short Justin Tucker field goal gave Baltimore a little breathing room at 31-23, but Kaepernick’s 15-yard scramble into the end zone — the longest touchdown run for a quarterback in a Super Bowl — made it 31-29, with San Francisco missing its two-point conversion attempt. Another Baltimore field goal set up a thrilling, do-or-die finale: San Francisco with the ball, with just over four minutes left, at their own 20, down 34-29. A touchdown wins it; nothing else is surely good enough.
And San Francisco was going to win it. Kaepernick hits Crabtree for 24 yards; Gore runs left for 33 yards down to the Baltimore seven. Two huge plays, back to back: San Francisco just needed to punch it in from seven yards out.
Or would Ray Lewis end his career on a goal-line stand to win him a second Super Bowl? At least one Raven doubted that would happen. “I was sitting there thinking there’s no way,” says Flacco. “There’s no way we stop them here.”
The 49ers helped Baltimore out with some weird play calling. At that point in the game, Gore had 110 yards rushing and averaged a robust 5.8 yards per carry. Kaepernick had run for 62 yards on 8.9 yards per carry. And yet, with the Super Bowl on the line, neither player’s legs were used on those final four plays. The “Pistol” offense, with Kaepernick reading — and fooling — the defense, 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 Crabtree, and each missed. The final one, on fourth down, was especially frustrating: Kaepernick slinged it to the side of the end zone, where Crabtree, on a fade pattern, had little room to operate.
The Niners hinged their Super Bowl hopes on a jump ball, but Kaepernick overthrew it. Did Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith hold Crabtree on that final play? Probably. “I really want to handle this with class,” said San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, before thinking otherwise, “[but] there is no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and a hold on Crabtree on the last one.” The officials, however, knew Crabtree had no chance of catching the ball, so they kept their flags in their pockets.
San Francisco’s play calling even bewildered the team’s own players. “We were surprised,” says San Francisco safety Donte Whitner. “The defense was surprised.”
To add one more touch of weirdness, the Ravens decided to take a rare safety, rather than punt the ball with 12 seconds left: punter Sam Koch ran backward out of the end zone to eat clock time. This left just four seconds on the clock; the strategy wouldn’t give San Francisco enough time to try one more Hail Mary from the line of scrimmage. On the ensuring free kick, San Francisco’s Ted Ginn Jr. tried to plow through the Baltimore defense, but Paul Kruger tackled him well short of the goal line, closing out the game and bringing confetti down from the Superdome rafters, the Ravens holding on 34-31.
“Just another game,” says Baltimore center Matt Birk, deadpan.
The brothers Harbaugh shared an embrace, victorious John telling Jim he loves him, Jim congratulating the winner. “The meeting in the middle was probably the most difficult thing I’ve been associated with in my life,” says John Harbaugh.
The game’s twists — especially the blackout — may have overshadowed Flacco’s MVP performance: he finished the game completing 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. (Only Flacco and Joe Montana have ever finished a postseason with 11 touchdowns and no picks.) “He has the guts of a burglar,” Harbaugh says of his quarterback’s daring throws downfield. After the game, while his teammates hollered all around him — “We’re the f—ing champions, man,” fullback Vonta Leach blurted out — Flacco quietly changed in the corner. “Where’s my laundry bag?” he politely asked an attendant, who pointed to the top of the locker. “Oh, O.K., thanks.” He perked up slightly when someone asked him about the car he got for winning the MVP award. “I kind of just saw it from afar,” said Flacco, who is 6 ft. 6 in. “Am I going to fit in it?”
“Joey Flac,” said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught one of Flacco’s three TD passes. “Super Bowl winner, Joey Flac.”
Then the lights went out in the Ravens locker room for a second. Everyone had a good laugh.