Traditionally, the lights go down when a show has reached its conclusion but this wasn’t the case in New Orleans last night. In the 3rd Quarter, with the score 28-6 in Baltimore’s favour, something happened which I have personally never witnessed before at an NFL game, let alone in the Super Bowl. The lights went out. Literally. For a full thirty four minutes, the stadium lights were out, leaving only the emergency lighting to illuminate this great arena. Aside from terrifying the hapless American television hosts, the power outage had another, far more important, impact on the game – it turned it on its head.
Despite this being the first time in Super Bowl history that two brothers have been the opposing head coaches, this game wasn’t played in Philadelphia and there was certainly no brotherly love involved. The pre-game build-up between brothers John and Jim was of mutual respect but, as soon as this game kicked off, the trademark aggression and emotion of both coaches was evident.
The game started with ill-discipline costing the 49ers – a solid defensive stop and probable Ravens field goal was negated by a silly defensive penalty, which ultimately allowed the Ravens to score a touchdown. The 49ers then turned to nervous, uneasy play to turn a certain seven points of their own into a mere three.
The second quarter saw the first major talking point when, with the 49ers marching down the field, LeMichael James fumbled the ball. Instead of a probable 49ers touchdown, Joe Flacco marched the Ravens downfield and registered a 7-pointer of his own. Following another San Francisco turnover (this one a Colin Kaepernick interception), the Ravens moved to within twenty yards of the 49ers endzone where, on a 4th down and 9, they ran a fake field goal but turned the ball over on downs. John Harbaugh was vindicated in that call as, following an immediate stop by his defence, Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones downfield for a big touchdown, helped by some inexplicable defensive work by the hapless Chris Culliver.
Following a mesmerising performance by Beyonce, the second half begun with a moment of brilliance. David Akers launched the kick off deep into the end zone but, to the surprise of everyone except himself, Jacoby Jones brought the ball out and proceeded to cut and sprint his way 109 yards, untouched, to the San Francisco end zone. One can assume that Jim Harbaugh warned his team of the importance of stopping the Ravens on their first possession of the second half but that warning must have fallen on deaf ears.
This was where the game changed with the power outage and resulting thirty four minute delay. Reports that Beyonce had used all the electricity at half-time or that Jerry Rice was spotted in the power room with a wire cutter are, as yet, unsubstantiated.
Now. We all know that momentum is a huge factor in sports; it is hard to find, easy to lose and changes games, seasons and careers in an instant. Momentum, after the power outage, had shifted decisively towards the 49ers. In lightning quick time, the 49ers put seventeen unanswered points on the board, leaving the Ravens shell-shocked – a twenty two point lead cut down to five in what seemed like an instant.
The Ravens managed to stem the flow and came tantalisingly close to a touchdown of their own at the start of the 4th quarter but had to settle for a field goal. The 49ers continued to press relentlessly and were rewarded when the impressive Kaepernick reeled off a fifteen yard TD run to draw within two points, although the two point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. Baltimore then put together a five plus minute drive which ended with a field goal, giving them a five point lead with four minutes on the clock.
Like the proverbial knife through butter, San Francisco used a combination of pinpoint passing and tough hard running to slice through the now exhausted Baltimore defence, leaving the Niners facing goal to go with two minutes remaining. This is when the Ravens of old reared their ugly, defensive heads. Four straight plays the 49ers banged on the Baltimore door and four straight times the Ravens held firm in vintage fashion to turn the ball over on downs. This allowed them to run the clock down using a combination of running plays and a smart intentional safety call. This still left time for one last kick return for San Francisco but it was one miracle too far for this 49ers team.
The autocorrect function on my iPhone changes Flacco to Flaccid; but Joe was anything but. The 5th year man looked composed and determined at every turn. He calmly marched the Ravens down the field time and again, firing in 3 touchdown passes in the first half and winning the MVP award in the process. With his contract now expired, his agent will be doing his best ‘Jerry Maguire’ impression, as Flacco’s postseason showing has undoubtedly earned him the elite deal he now deserves.
Ray Lewis finished his Super Bowl career as he started; mired in controversy. Having gotten to his first Super Bowl in 2001 in the wake of personal involvement in a murder trial, he arrived in New Orleans facing allegations of doping using deer antler spray which is said to contain IGF-1 (a HGH derivative).These allegations are of course being refuted but his miraculous recovery from a torn triceps in October (an injury that traditionally carries a four month minimum recovery time) does add weight to the suggestion that he used means other than legal ones to get back in time for the playoffs. Despite the allegations and his peripheral involvement in the game itself, Ray Lewis gets to end his incredible and storied career as a Super Bowl winner, lofting the Vince Lombardi on the podium. Three hall of fame players ended their careers with Super Bowl wins – perhaps Lewis could add his name to that list?
This could be the end of an era in Baltimore, with the retirement of Lewis and the contract issues of several players. For this San Francisco franchise, the future appears imminently brighter than those faulty stadium lights. But aside from the electrical malfunctions and Beyonce’s half-time efforts, we will all remember this Super Bowl for the right reason – it was a damn good game....