NEW ORLEANS – The lights went out on Super Bowl XLVII early in the second half, and for the 49ers, their electricity came to life just a little too late. As a result, for the first time in its storied history, San Francisco was left with the bitter taste of defeat on the NFL’s grandest stage.
MVP Joe Flacco threw for 287 yards and three first-half touchdowns and the Baltimore Ravens held off a furious second-half rally from the Niners to capture the franchise’s second Super Bowl title 34-31 on Sunday.
“I thought our guys battled, they competed,” Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We got a spark and we weren’t going to look back after that. I thought we battled right to the brink of winning. It was a heck of a football game.”
The brink was the 49ers having the ball first-and-goal at the Ravens’ 7-yard line with 2:39 left in the game, trailing 34-29.
But after a Frank Gore plunge up the middle and three straight incomplete passes, all intended for receiver Michael Crabtree, the 49ers’ fate was essentially sealed. Baltimore wound up taking a safety for the final margin, but it was the Niners’ final offensive play, a fade to Crabtree that Colin Kaepernick audibled too, that had Jim Harbaugh steaming after the game.
“There’s no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on that last one,” Harbaugh said. After much of the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl were spent building up the Harbowl, it was big brother who reigned supreme once again.
“There is no greater competitor and no greater coach in the National Football League or in the world, as far as I’m concerned, than Jim Harbaugh,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose club also beat the 49ers on Thanksgiving Day last season. “The way that team played proves it.”
After Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half a Super Bowl-record 108 yards to give Baltimore a 28-6 lead, it appeared as though it might turn into a Ravens runaway.
But then the lights went out — literally. A power outage in the Superdome caused a 34-minute delay. When action resumed, the 49ers flipped a switch of their own.
Kaepernick, who finished with 302 yards passing and 62 yards rushing, hit Crabtree for a 31-yard strike, then Gore followed with a 6-yard TD run and David Akers booted a 34-yard field goal to close the gap to 28-23 in barely over 10 minutes.
It was a stark contrast to the first half where penalties and turnovers, including the first interception ever thrown by a 49ers quarterback in the Super Bowl, led to Flacco finding Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Jones for scores.
The Niners cut the lead to 31-29 when Kaepernick scampered around left end for a 15-yard score, but they couldn’t tie it up on the 2-point conversion.
Flacco had one more scoring drive in him as he marched the Ravens 59 yards and Justin Tucker booted a 38-yard field goal that forced the Niners to need a TD late in the game.
It capped off a remarkable postseason run for Flacco, who finished the playoffs with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The 11 postseason TDs tie an NFL record with Joe Montana and Kurt Warner.
“Joe Montana’s my favorite quarterback, so to be put anywhere next to him is pretty cool,” Flacco said.
The 49ers came into the game as the only team to have an undefeated record having played in multiple Super Bowls (5-0), but that mark now belongs to the Ravens, who are 2-0. And along with it, the Ravens sent retiring linebacker Ray Lewis out on top in his final NFL game.
“What better way to go out?,” Lewis said. “And, I think, more importantly, it was my teammates in the way I went out — the things we’ve been through all year.”