NEW ORLEANS — Power at the Superdome suddenly, oddly went out, putting the nation’s biggest sporting event on hold for more than a half-hour Sunday and interrupting a back-and-forth Super Bowl in which Joe Flacco’s three touchdown passes and Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return gave the Baltimore Ravens a 22-point lead over the San Francisco 49ers that dwindled to 34-29 late in the fourth quarter.
The biggest deficit a team has ever overcome to win a Super Bowl is 10 points. Baltimore led 28-6 after Jones opened the second half with the longest kickoff return in a Super Bowl, his eyes glancing up at the videoboard, presumably to watch himself sprint to the end zone. The 49ers showed they were capable of a comeback in their previous game: They trailed by 17 against the Atlanta Falcons before winning the NFC championship game.
Moments after Jones‘ return, lights lining the indoor arena faded, making it difficult to see. Escalators weren’t working. Officials stopped play about 1½ minutes into the third quarter, and the bizarre delay lasted 34 minutes in real time before action resumed. Some players sat. Others stretched. Some fans chanted, “Let’s go, Ravens!” Others passed time by doing the wave.
This was the 10th time New Orleans hosted the big game — tying Miami for most in a city — and first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy in August 2005.
When play resumed, San Francisco began making things more interesting, scoring 17 points in less than 4½ minutes.
First, Colin Kaepernick threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, pulling them within 15 points midway through the third quarter. Ravens defensive backs Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard missed tackles on the play. Then, with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, Frank Gore swept around right end for a 6-yard TD run, making it 28-20, before Ravens running back Ray Rice’s fumble gave the ball right back to the 49ers.
San Francisco tacked on David Akers’ 34-yard field goal to get within 28-23 after he missed from a longer distance but the Ravens were whistled for running into the kicker. It was his third successful kick of the game after hitting from 36 and 27 yards in the first half.
How close was it heading into the fourth quarter? Each team had exactly 17 first downs. Total yardage was nearly the same, with the 49ers slightly ahead, 317-315. Time of possession was nearly split down the middle, too.
About 2 minutes into the fourth quarter, rookie kicker Justin Tucker made a 19-yard field goal to stretch the Ravens‘ lead to 31-23. Not long later, Kaepernick’s 15-yard run around the left side — the longest TD run by a quarterback in Super Bowl history — made it 31-29. His 2-point conversion pass intended for Randy Moss was incomplete.
A 38-yarder by Tucker made it 34-29 with 4:19 left in regulation.
Kaepernick was making only his 10th start the NFL, having taken over the job after Alex Smith got a concussion during a game. After his touchdown run, Kaepernick kissed his tattooed right biceps, his celebration move.
The first half was all about Flacco. He went 13 for 20 for 192 yards and the three scores over the opening two quarters, becoming only the sixth QB in 47 Super Bowls to throw for that many TDs by halftime.
He has 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions this postseason. It’s been one impressive game after another for a guy who never has commanded the widespread respect usually accorded a top player — but now will head into an offseason that could land him a $20 million-per-year contract in free agency.