By Sam Farmer, Tribune Newspapers
The Ravens were almost done in Sunday by a reign delay.
A power outage at the Superdome halted Super Bowl XLVII for 34 minutes casting the stadium into a twilight-like darkness and allowing the reeling 49ers to regroup with almost a full half remaining.
“It’s never pretty, it’s never perfect, but it’s us,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team had lost four of its last five regular-season games before going on a marvelous run that included knocking off the Colts, Broncos and Patriots to reach the biggest stage.
Even before the ball was kicked off, the game made history. For the first time, brothers stood on opposite sidelines as head coaches. John’s younger brother, Jim, coaches the 49ers, making Sunday’s victory somewhat bittersweet for the Ravens coach.
“It’s tough,” John said. “It’s very tough. It’s a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It’s very painful.”
Most excruciating for the 49ers was how close they came. The game essentially ended on a goal-line stand, with three incomplete passes by the 49ers from the Ravens’ 5 inside the final two minutes.
Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who showed incredible poise for a player with just 10 career starts, failed to connect with Michael Crabtree on three straight tries. On the last, Jim Harbaugh complained angrily that cornerback Jimmy Smith had held Crabtree, but officials were unsympathetic.
“There’s no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one,” the 49ers coach said.
The 49ers are now 5-1 in Super Bowls. By winning, the Ravens improved to 2-0 in the marquee game, becoming the only NFL team with multiple Super Bowl wins and an unblemished record in the big game.
“Lord knows, this season, it was tough, it was rough, I’m just ready to kick my feet up,” said an effusive Ravens safety Ed Reed, a New Orleans native who said he felt like leading a parade “all the way up Poydras,” the street that runs past the Superdome.
Reed intercepted an overthrown Kaepernick pass in the first half and grabbed a piece of history. It was the first time a 49ers quarterback had been picked off in the Super Bowl, with Joe Montana and Steve Young accounting for 17 touchdown passes in the previous five appearances.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran seven times for 62 yards and a score.
The star quarterback Sunday was Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw three touchdown passes and was named the game’s most valuable player.
“I think we gave the country a pretty good game to watch — not to our liking necessarily — but that’s the way it goes sometimes, and that’s the way we do things,” said Flacco, who completed 22 of 33 for 287 yards with a passer rating of 124.2.
The game was a masterpiece for the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones, who grew up in New Orleans.
First, he had a 56-yard touchdown in the second quarter that had to have countless fans rewinding their DVRs. He slipped past cornerback Chris Culliver and caught a slightly underthrown bomb, turning with his back to the goal line to grab the ball, then falling to the ground. Untouched, he immediately popped to his feet, spun away from a defender, then beat Culliver again to the end zone.
That was just one of Culliver’s travails on a very bad night for the young corner, who found himself in hot water earlier in the week when he said on a radio show that he would never accept a gay teammate.
Keeping up with Jones wasn’t an option, not after he took the opening kickoff of the second half and returned it 108 yards for a touchdown, setting a Super Bowl record and tying the NFL record. Jones’ return took a mere 11 seconds. Not bad for a guy in pads who had to dodge defenders along the way.
Before most of the lights ringing the field went out, the Ravens had built a 28-6 lead. But after the delay, during which players stretched in the surreal half-light, the 49ers answered with a 23-3 run.
With their red-and-gold-clad fans roaring their approval, the 49ers just missed a chance to forge a tie at 31 with 10:04 remaining, after Kaepernick ran for a 15-yard touchdown, the longest scoring run by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. But his conversion pass to Randy Moss was incomplete, however, leaving the Ravens to cling to a tenuous two-point lead.
The 49ers wouldn’t score on offense again, and their only points came on an intentional safety by the Ravens in the game’s final moments.
The game was a curtain-dropper for All-Pro Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who punctuated his career the way NFL stars John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan did — with a championship ring.
For the Ravens, the night was unforgettable.
Asked what he told his team before the game, John Harbaugh said: “I told them there’s an old Motown song that says, ‘There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep us from winning this championship.’ That’s exactly what I said. It’s a great song too.”
Reed had another ditty in mind.
The All-Pro safety, having collected the crowning achievement of his storied career, cleared his throat, leaned into his microphone and crooned: “I’ve got two tickets to paradise …”
It was that kind of night.