The Baltimore Ravens shook off an unprecedented Superdome blackout and a near improbable second-half comeback by the San Francisco 49ers, to hold on and capture one of the greatest, and certainly wildest, Super Bowls, 34-31 on Sunday.
In the end it was the aged, but still game, Ravens defense that delivered one final goal-line stand to clinch victory. A fourth-down pass from Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick sailed long with 1:46 to play, allowing Baltimore to hold on.
In a game full of huge momentum swings and electric, back-and-forth plays, everything seemed to turn on a 33-minute, third-quarter power outage at the Superdome.
"How could it be any other way?" Ravens coach John Harbaugh asked in the postgame ceremony. "It's never pretty, it's never perfect, but it's us."
The Ravens led 28-6 early in the third quarter, riding the momentum of a 108-yard Jacoby Jones kickoff return for a score before the Superdome lost power, casting the field in darkness, shutting off the air conditioning and delaying the game for over half an hour before order was restored.
While the impact wasn’t immediately felt, the 49ers soon found their rhythm on both sides of the ball.
San Francisco quickly rallied with three scores in 4:10 – a 31-yard Michael Crabtree reception, a 6-yard Frank Gore run and a 34-yard David Akers field goal. After Baltimore answered with a field goal, San Francisco scored again on Kaepernick's 15-yard sprint. After a failed two-point conversion, Baltimore clung to a 31-29 lead.
Flacco, who finished 22-of-33 for 287 yards and three touchdowns, led the Ravens on a time consuming field-goal drive, allowing a gassed defense a bit of rest and a five-point cushion. Along with the Lombardi Trophy, he will take home MVP honors.
Kaepernick responded only to stall out on downs inside the Ravens' 5-yard line, the vaunted defense making red zone yards so difficult to attain.
In the end, it may not have been pretty but it was enough. And since when has Baltimore football been about beauty.
The victory gave Harbaugh a victory over his younger brother Jim in the first Super Bowl featuring brothers as opposing coaches. In the postgame handshake, John Harbaugh told his sibling that he loved him. Jim's reply was "congratulations."
Sympathy for the younger Harbaugh was evident. "It's very tough," John Harbaugh said. "It's a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It's very painful."
Ray Lewis walks off into retirement a winner, earning his second Super Bowl championship. He stayed true to his faithful form when the Lombardi Trophy was presented to the team.
"When God is for you, who can be against you?" Lewis asked.
The Ravens dominated the first half, taking a 21-6 lead into the break on the strength of the brilliant arm of Flacco and a defense that while aged was able to produce two turnovers and completely confuse Kaepernick.
When Jones returned the opening kick of the second half to give Baltimore a 22 point lead, many thought the game was over.
Whether it was the ensuing blackout or simply the never-quit attitude of a team that made a habit of late comebacks all season, the Niners were nowhere near done.