Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ravens able to stave off 49ers’ rally

NEW ORLEANS—Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens were turning the Super Bowl into a rout when, without even a flicker of warning, the power went off.
When the game resumed 34 minutes later, the San Francisco 49ers were the ones playing lights out.

Instead of a blowout, the blackout turned the big game into a shootout.
The Ravens survived the frenzied comeback by the 49ers for a thrilling 34-31 win at the Superdome last night and their second NFL championship in 11 years.
“How could it be any other way? It’s never pretty. It’s never perfect. But it’s us,” Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh said after winning the sibling showdown with younger brother Jim.
“It was us today.”
Barely.
Leading by 22 points when most of the Superdome lights and the scoreboards went dark early in the third quarter, the Ravens used a last-gasp defensive stand to hold on after the momentum strangely swung to the 49ers.
San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree was bumped in the end zone on the 49ers’ final offensive play—the contact appeared incidental—but coach Jim Harbaugh insisted a penalty should have been called.
“There’s no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold,” he stressed.
As for the foul-up at America’s biggest sporting event, officials revealed an “abnormality” in the power system triggered an automatic shutdown, forcing back-up systems to kick in.
But no one was sure what caused the initial problem.
Everything changed after that, though, until Ray Lewis and Co. shut it down. But there were plenty of white-knuckle moments and the Ravens (14-6) had to make four stops inside their seven at the end.
“I think it speaks to our resolve, speaks to our determination, speaks to our mental toughness,” John Harbaugh said.
“That is what wins and loses games.”
For a Super Bowl with so many subplots, it almost had to end with a flourish.
Flacco’s arrival as a championship quarterback coincides with Lewis’ retirement—with a second Super Bowl ring no less.
The win capped a sensational month since the star linebacker announced he was leaving the game after 17 Hall of Fame-calibre years.
At four hours, 14 minutes, it was the longest Super Bowl ever.
The loss of power left players from both sides stretching and chatting with each other. It also slowed Baltimore’s surge, and that was considerable after Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kick-off return and Flacco’s three touchdown passes made it 28-6.
Flacco’s big start boosted him to the MVP award.
“They have to give it to one guy and I’m not going to complain that I got it,” said Flacco, who soon will get a rich new contract (his current deal expired with this win).
Down by three TDs, back came San Francisco (13-5-1) in search of its sixth Lombardi Trophy in as many tries.
“As far as the power going out, that didn’t change anything for us,” said tight end Vernon Davis.
Yet they got back in the game almost immediately.
Michael Crabtree’s 31-yard touchdown reception on which he broke two tackles made it 28-13. A couple minutes later, Frank Gore’s six-yard run followed a 32-yard punt return by Ted Ginn Jr.—and the 49ers were within eight.
Ray Rice’s fumble at his 24 led to David Akers’ 34-yard field goal, but Baltimore woke up for a long drive leading to rookie Justin Tucker’s 19-yard field goal.
San Francisco wasn’t done challenging, though, and Colin Kaepernick’s 15-yard TD run—the longest for a quarterback in a Super Bowl—made it 31-29.
A two-point conversion pass failed when the Ravens blitzed.
Tucker added a 38-yarder with 4:19 to go, setting up the frantic finish.
Kaepernick couldn’t get the 49ers into the end zone on the final three plays, and Ravens’ punter Sam Koch took a safety for the final score with four seconds left.
Koch’s free kick was returned by Ginn to midfield as time ran out.
The Harbaughs then met at midfield amid the Ravens’ confetti-laden celebrations.
“It’s very tough,” John Harbaugh said, referring to their conversation.
“It’s a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be,” he added. “It’s very painful.”
Only one other championship game in the NFL’s 80-year title game history, Pittsburgh’s 35-31 win over Dallas in 1979, featured both teams scoring at least 30 points.
It was a bitter loss for Jim Harbaugh, the coach who turned around the Niners in the last two years and brought them to their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
His team made a similarly stunning comeback in the NFC championship at Atlanta, but couldn’t finish it off against Baltimore.
“Our guys battled back to get back in,” the 49ers’ coach said.
“I thought we battled right to the brink of winning.”

More stories