The lights went out at the Superdome during the Super Bowl and only then did the game really begin.
In a sporting event that has seen spectacular finishes as well as an infamous wardrobe malfunction during a half-time performance, the electricity at the Superdome stole the show this time, interrupting the third quarter for more than a half-hour and seemingly shifting the momentum of the game in a dramatic way.
Moments after Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones returned the opening kick-off of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown that gave the Ravens an 18-point lead, the stadium's power failed, plunging the teams, 71,024 fans in attendance and millions of television viewers into low light, confusion and the sort of question that sports fans love to ponder: How might such a weird interruption affect the game?
After 34 minutes of players stretching, fans doing the wave and Ravens coach John Harbaugh screaming at a league official in a suit, play resumed and the teams had their answer. The energy had leaked out of the Ravens during the unexpected break, allowing the San Francisco 49ers to surge to within two points before Baltimore finally held on for a 34-31 victory.
"How could it be any other way?" Harbaugh said after the Ravens captured their Super Bowl title. "It's never pretty. It's never perfect. But it is us."
It was the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina had turned the Superdome into a shelter instead of a stadium, and the first time brothers opposed each other in the game as coaches. Jim Harbaugh, who at 49 is a year younger, saw his team come up short on a last-minute drive inside the Ravens' 10-yard-line.
When they were growing up, the Harbaugh brothers learned about coaching by watching their father. From their mother, though, they learned something that might help them on the day after the Super Bowl: always have your brother's back. When they met at midfield as the confetti fell for John's team, Jim patted his older brother on the cheek. "I love you," John said, not smiling. "Good job."
The Ravens had dominated the first half, with quarterback Joe Flacco nimbly escaping pressure to throw three touchdown passes, including a 56-yarder to Jones on third and 10 in which Jones fell when he caught the ball at about the 9-yard line, got up and outsprinted the 49ers defence to the end zone.
When the 49ers botched a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, settling for a short field goal, and Jones opened the second half with his return, it appeared the Ravens would cruise to a victory, a triumph of the older brother who had long been overshadowed athletically by his younger sibling. No team had ever overcome a deficit of more than 10 points to win the Super Bowl.
But the 49ers have been slow to start throughout the postseason, gaining energy as gradually as the stadium lights did. This was the third straight play-off game in which the 49ers' opponent scored first, and the long game delay seemed to steal their opponents' momentum but the Ravens held on to win. NEW YORK TIMES