No sooner had the lights come on after the Beyonce halftime show that the lights went out on the San Francisco 49ers and their Super Bowl hopes.
Or so we thought. A national tragi-comedy was yet to unfold before our very eyes.
In the end, Big Brother John Harbaugh and the Ravens beat Little Brother Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers, 34-31, in the most recent in what has been a long and stirring series of electrifying Super Bowls.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum of pro football excellence.
Ravens return specialist Jacoby Jones had just lit up the night after red-hot Beyonce’s electric halftime performance.
He jetted past 49ers defenders with the opening kickoff of the second half 109 yards for what seemed like a back-breaking touchdown that gave Baltimore a 28-3 lead before the smoke had cleared on the halftime show.
It was only the longest scoring play in the history of football – and the longest we’ll ever see again until they put sensors in footballs to measure every last micro-inch. It was also the brightest play in a night full of them for the Ravens.
But then in a bizarre moment heightened by the collective national consciousness of social media, in which every major event unfolds in shared real time commentary and emotion, the lights literally went out at the Superdome.
The entire nation watched and obsessed as the Superdome struggled with a 34-minute power outage. The NFL is famed for its frightening power and attention to detail. The league quite literally has the financial, cultural and political juice to take over entire cities in a manner that would make tinpot tyrants blush with embarrassment at their impotence.
And yet they couldn’t even keep the lights on during the biggest show in the biggest moment of the biggest game in the land.
The power outage was witnessed by more Americans than probably had ever witnessed anything together at the same time. It was clearly an embarrassment for the NFL and for New Orleans – a city that otherwise seems uniquely capable of handling the biggest parties in the land.
You walk the streets of New Orleans and it’s quickly evident that this is where America comes to party: Americans from East Coast towns like Baltimore and West Coast towns like San Francisco race toward the center or the country, spill down the original great American byway of the Mississippi River, disembark in New Orleans and live out every virtue and vice without apology or remorse.
And yet the lights quite literally went out on the biggest party of the year.
The Ravens led 28-6 at the time of the outage. But the 49ers clearly handled the down time better than Baltimore. Some joked on Twitter and elsewhere that it was Jim Harbaugh's 34-minute timeout.
When the lights came back on and the game resumed, San Francisco struck for 17 straight points. Game on.
The 49ers trailed 34-29 and had a final chance to pull out the victory. Yet they failed to convert 1st and goal at the Baltimore 7. The drive fizzled out when three straight Kaepnernic passes from the 5 did not connect.
The Ravens failed to move the ball out of their own territory and Baltimore punter Sam Koch took an intentional safety with 4 seconds to play. It was Sam Koch's best move since he was seen Twistin' the Night Away on the "Animal House" soundtrack 30 years ago.
Here are five observations from the second Super Bowl title in Baltimore Ravens history. Much more to follow.
The Ravens are Joe Flacco’s team – We said it repeatedly over the past several weeks. Ray Lewis may be the vocal leader of the Ravens. But Flacco was the actual leader on the field.
Baltimore simply doesn’t win the Super Bowl without a brilliant postseason run by Flacco. He threw 11 TD against 0 INT in the 2012 playoffs, joining Joe Montana in the 1989 postseason as the only two quarterbacks who can make that claim.
Lewis is gone. Flacco will likely reap a big contract after his Super Bowl MVP effort (3 TD, 0 INT). It’s his team now in spirit. It was already his team in body.
“Joe Flacco is the leader in my book,” said Lewis after the game.
The Colin Kaepernick decision didn’t pay off – The 49ers were already a Super Bowl-caliber team with Alex Smith at quarterback. Fans and coach Jim Harbaugh marveled at his athleticism. But at the end of the day he was really no better a passer than Alex Smith and probably a worse passer in the biggest game of the year.
Kaepernick put up decent but not great numbers (91.7 rating) in the Super Bowl. But he struggled badly early in the game as the Ravens raced out to an early lead and he bumbled through the final potential game-winning drive.
The decision to play Kaepernick ahead of Smith was validated only if the 49ers won the Super Bowl. The 49ers lost the Super Bowl.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts are money in the clutch – The 49ers were 4-point favorites when we published our aptly named Real and Spectacular pick on Friday. We picked the 49ers to win by 1 point. They lost by 3. So we didn’t get the winner right, but we did post yet another win against the spread: 8-3 ATS in the 2012 postseason after 7-4 ATS in the 2011 postseason. That’s 15-7 (.682) ATS over the past two years in the biggest and toughest games of the year.
The Lord works in mysterious ways - 13 years ago Ravens face-of-the-franchise Ray Lewis was charged with murder. He led his team to a win in Super Bowl XXV the following season with an MVP performance.
Over the past decade plus, he remade his image from thug to spiritual leader, emerged as a devout soldier of God and leader of young men despite a rather troubled past. He was rewarded with a Super Bowl victory in the final game of his career.
The NFL regular season no longer matters - Teams once needed to win 12 games to harbor legit Super Bowl aspirations. No longer. The 10-6 Ravens are just the latest in a very recent run of teams that bumbled through the regular season only to get hot late and make it to the Super Bowl.
In terms of wins, Passer Rating Differential or any of a number of other indicators, the Ravens were a very ordinary team.
From 1940 to 2006, for example, only one team (the 1957 Lions) finished outside the Top 10 in Passer Rating Differential and won an NFL championship. Three teams have done it since 2007: the 2007 Giants, 2011 Giants and 2012 Ravens.
In fact, in the Super Bowl Era, only five teams have won championships with nine or 10 wins: the 1967 Packers (9-4-1); the 1988 49ers (10-6); the 2007 Giants (10-6); the 2011 Giants (9-7); and now the 2012 Ravens (10-6).
Clearly, there has been a disturbance in the football force in recent years.