NEW ORLEANS – I knew this already, but this weekend simply reaffirmed the fact the gladiator game of American football, and, it signature event, the Super Bowl is an unquestionable American iconic yearly event.
Major League Baseball, NBA, and National Hockey League all have to take a back seat to the Super Bowl that has become America’s once a year national corporate playground.
With this fact securely a reality, Super Bowl XLVII actually lived up to the enormous hype machine, as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens engaged in a thrilling contest full of twist and turns. However, when the smoke cleared the Ravens were hoisting the valued Vince Lombardi Trophy after a hard fought 34-31 victory.
Sure The Big Easy is legendary for partying and food, but now we can add blackouts. For over 35 minutes XLVII was shutdown when the lights went out in the stadium. The power outage put the nation’s biggest sporting event on hold, interrupting an otherwise electric, back-and-forth game.
When the lights finally came back on the hot Ravens had cooled off and momentum appeared to have swung over to the 49ers. When the lights dissipated the Raven was holding a commanding 28-6 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the third quarter.
However, when the mechanical problems were finally arrested, a previously sleepwalking 49es’ team suddenly came alive and as quick as one came say Super Bowl, the Niners had trimmed the Ravens lead to 28-23 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
But Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco took put his team on his shoulders and made every play he had to make to hold off a fast charging 49ers team. Flacco, voted the MVP, threw three first-half touchdown passes to cap an 11-TD, zero-interception postseason.
“I just made my reads and took what the 49ers gave me,” said a calm Flacco. “This has not sunk in yet, but I’m sure when I get time to reflect it will take on even greater meaning. Right now this is what we all work and train for, and, we made it happen.”
Next, Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff 108 yards, a Super Bowl record, to give Baltimore a 28-6 lead. Jones became just the second player in NFL history to score via a kick return and reception in playoff history.
“I just saw a seam and got up in there and it opened up,” explained Jones. “This is what every kid dreams about doing while playing Madden or playing in the streets.”
Being down 28-6 at one point I had written San Francisco off, but team by the Bay had other plans. The Niners made a noteworthy run at overcoming the biggest deficit a team has ever had to surmount. The record for a comeback win in a Super Bowl is 10 points, and there were moments were it appeared San Francisco had a chance to better that mark. Instead, the 49ers lost for the first time in six trips to the Super Bowl.
The AFC champion Ravens (14-6), a franchise that moved from Cleveland to Baltimore 17 years ago, improved to 2-0 in the big game. They also won the championship in 2001, when linebacker Ray Lewis was voted the game’s MVP. Lewis was not a major factor this time, but he was a center of attention, playing in the final game of his 17-year career before retiring.
The 49ers struggled early in the first Super Bowl coaching matchup between brothers: Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is 15 months older than San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick did all he could to get his team a victory. Kaepernick and the 49ers scored 17 consecutive points, getting as close as 31-29 in the third quarter.
“We started slow and the hurt us as a team,” Kaepernick said. “But, this is a never say died group. We came back and made a run at it. WE had four shots at the end zone, so we came not blame anyone or look for any excuses.”
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.
Leland Stein III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @LelandSteinIII