This year's Super Bowl will certainly be a memorable one, and likely not because Ray Lewis went out with a second ring on his "last ride" or because Joe Flacco finally proved his worth and captured a Super Bowl MVP award.
It'll be memorable because of a 34 minute power outage that the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans experienced two minutes into the third quarter. I'd like to think that Beyonce's powerful halftime performance had something to do with the outage, although commissioner Goodell has come out and stated that she was not the cause. At the same time, though, the league still is unsure of the cause...so we'll go with Beyonce blowing out a fuse. It sounds cool.
Leading 21-6 at the half, and then coming back out of the tunnel and witnessing Jacoby Jones return the second half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown had Baltimore fans going crazy––the stadium was at least half purple. The return was originally ruled a 109-yarder, but that was later changed to 108. Either way though, it's not only a Super Bowl record for longest return, but a postseason record.
Just minutes away from the infamous power outage at this point, Baltimore had a 28-6 lead and a jubilant crowd on their side. What could possibly go wrong? But just prior to a 3rd & 13 play from their own 40-yard line, half of the stadiums lights went out on the Niners.
Speculation rose, and the CBS analysts began thinking that the outage would benefit San Francisco the most as they'd get to slow the game down and kill Baltimore's momentum. Following the delay, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an incomplete pass intended for backup tight end Delanie Walker, forcing an Andy Lee punt.
But following a short-living four-play drive from the Ravens, San Francisco got the ball back and managed to drive 80 yards on seven plays and Kaepernick capped the three-minute drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
The atmosphere inside the dome had changed quite a bit at this time, and the Niners defense stepped up as well, forcing a three & out from Joe Flacco. A 32-yard return for Ted Ginn Jr. off a Sam Koch punt put the ball at Baltimore's 20-yard line. Two plays later running back Frank Gore put the ball in the end zone for the Niners.
Baltimore's offense hadn't gotten anything going on its previous two drives of the quarter, and this time after catching a swing pass from Flacco, running back Ray Rice fumbled the ball deep in his own territory. San Francisco cornerback Tarell Brown both forced and recovered the ball at the BAL 24.
Despite the great field position, Baltimore's defense stepped up and forced a field goal try from 34-yards out. Splitting the uprights, the score was now 28-23 Baltimore. In just over four minutes of play, the Niners had put up 17 points with 3:14 to play in the third quarter.
Baltimore had begun to put the ball on the ground, and on the following drive ran the ball seven times to four passing plays on the 11-play scoring drive which ended with a Justin Tucker 19-yard field goal. On a 3rd & 1 play from San Francisco's 1-yard line, there was a borderline no-call in which Isaac Sopoaga hit Flacco out of bounds.
Some wanted a roughing the passer call, others wanted a late hit. But Flacco was on the run so roughing the passer could not be called since he was then considered a runner. And I thought Sopoaga's momentum took him into Flacco and that he wasn't far enough out of bounds to warrant a flag. So personally I thought it was the right no-call, because it could have made the difference in the game. In a Super Bowl, don't you want the players to make or break the game? I thought so.
So with one of many controversial calls aside, Baltimore took the three points and still held the lead early into the fourth quarter, 31-23. With the way Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense had been moving the ball in the second half, however, Baltimore knew an 8-point lead wasn't safe. After a LaMichael James 28-yard kickoff return, Kaepernick got to work. A 32-yard pass to the legendary Randy Moss (though he's clearly past his prime) was the key play of the five-play scoring drive, because three plays later Kaepernick managed to run the ball in from 15 yards out for a touchdown––longest TD run for a quarterback in Super Bowl history.
Unfortunately the two-point conversion failed, so San Francisco still found themselves down two points with 10 minutes to play.
During Baltimore's ensuing 9-play drive, penalties were key for the Niners' defense and proved costly. Facing a 3rd & 9 early in the drive, San Francisco was looking to stop Flacco on a three and out but defensive back Chris Culliver was flagged for a defensive PI on wideout Torrey Smith, giving Baltimore an automatic first down and another chance to put points on the board. Baltimore continued to slowly chip away at the Niner defense, and once again the Niners were penalized on an offsides penalty on 3rd & 7. The five-yard penalty gave BAL a more doable 3rd & 2 and, even though they still failed to convert on the play, the penalty gave Tucker a more manageable 38-yard field goal.
The drive took over five minutes of game clock, but 4:19 was still plenty to work with for the San Francisco offense. Starting at their own 20, the Niners chipped away at Baltimore and drove all the way down to the BAL 5-yard line while trailing by five. Three consecutive incomplete passes, all intended for Michael Crabtree, gave the ball up on downs with under two minutes to play. The final play of that sequence was once again controversial.
It appeared as though Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith had held onto Crabtree with the ball in the air. Again, no flag thrown and the drive was over. Considering that, while being held, Crabtree pushed Smith to the ground I believe the officials saw that and donned the play as two guys getting tangled up. I don't believe that they had actually gotten "tangled up," but I certainly agree with the no-call. Both guys had been pushing each other, so it's tough to call defensive holding when one player is as guilty as the other. Gotta just let these guys play when we're at the biggest stage of them all.
But just out of curiosity, I can't be the only one puzzled by the play-calling, right? Kaepernick and Frank Gore's legs were at Jim Harbaugh's disposal, and he decides to go through the air on three straight plays? There was plenty of time left on the clock and the Niners still had one timeout. Why not try to pound the ball in from five yards out? Confusing.
But either way, Baltimore was stopped on a three and out and forced to punt. Backed up in their own territory and worried about Ginn Jr. returning a short punt for a touchdown, the Ravens made the decision to take a safety and free kick it back to the Niners. Smart decision. Punter Sam Koch held onto the ball for as long as possible before running into the end zone for a safety. It's now 34-31 Baltimore and the Niners have just :04 left on the clock.
Ginn's 31-yard return wasn't enough for a touchdown, clearly, and the Ravens began its celebration, winning the franchise's 2nd Super Bowl title 12 years after celebrating its first.
I find it funny that people are trying to call for a conspiracy theory when talking about the power going out. Yes, the Niners may have picked up momentum and nearly successfully mounted the best comeback in Super Bowl history. But maybe if you had actually watched football this season you'd understand that the 49ers have been a second half team all season long:
Under Kaepernick (10 starts including postseason/SB)
1st half: 121 points (12.1/game)
2nd half: 167 points (16.7/game)
Under Kaepernick (3 starts in postseason/SB)
1st half: 44 (14.6/game)
2nd half: 60 (20/game)
In Super Bowl vs. Ravens
1st half: 6
2nd half: 25
At the biggest stage, it's not often you see a team completely buckle in like the Niners did in the first half, so I knew they'd put some points on the board. Did I know they'd outscore Baltimore 25-13 in the second half? No not really. But it's a good thing they did, because this game may end up going down in the top 10 for best Super Bowls.
Joe Flacco, as I predicted prior to the game, captured the Most Valuable Player award. He put up one of the most prolific single-season postseasons in league history, finishing with a near-perfect statline:
73/126, 58 comp %, 1,140 yards (285 per game), 11 TD, 0 INT, 117.2 rating (106.2+ rating in each of his four starts)
Flacco's performance tied both Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for most touchdowns in a single postseason, and he also tied Montana for the record of most touchdowns without an interception in a complete season. Flacco and Steve Young are now tied for third-place all-time with a 117.2 rating in a single-postseason (only counts Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks).
It's fair to say that Flacco has deserved a long-time contract from Baltimore after this season. His agent has already come out and say that he deserves to be the highest-paid quarterback. I certainly don't agree with this statement, but there's no doubt he deserves a big-time contract. Either way, there's a chance that the Ravens may use the franchise tag on Flacco this season so that they have more time to hash out a deal.
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