NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The Baltimore Ravens reclaimed the greatest prize in North American sports after a dramatic, nail-biting 34-31 Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Inspired by their power-packed quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens survived a ferocious comeback from the 49ers and a bizarre power outage that stopped the game for more than half an hour to win their second Super Bowl.
John Harbaugh, the head coach of the Ravens, won the most anticipated sibling rivalry in American team sports against his younger brother Jim, who holds the equivalent job with the 49ers.
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And Ray Lewis, the combative 37-year-old Ravens linebacker destined for the Hall of Fame, ended his 17 season career with a second Super Bowl title, 12 years after he won his first.
“What better way to go out?” said Lewis. “We did it! We did it!”
The game, at the Superdome in New Orleans, was preceded by one of the most poignant moments ever witnessed in the 47 editions of the Super Bowl when a choir from Sandy Hook Elementary School joined Jennifer Hudson in a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful”.
The 70,000 spectators rose to their feet, many with tears in their eyes, as the children sang, nearly two months after the deadly shooting rampage at their Connecticut school.
“Our wish is to demonstrate to America and the world that, “We are Sandy Hook and we choose love,” the school said in a statement.
The action on the field was as wild as the parties that have taken place in Bourbon St in the days leading up to the game as the Ravens opened up a commanding lead.
With Flacco, who was named Most Valuable Player, calling the shots and wide receiver Jacoby Jones scoring two of the most spectacular touchdowns seen in a Super Bowl, the Ravens looked to be cruising to victory when they led 28-6 early in the third quarter.
Flacco made a great start, orchestrating a six-play, 51-yard drive on his team’s first possession that culminated with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
In the second quarter, he threw a one-yard scoring pass to tight end Dennis Pitta, then a spectacular 56-yard scoring strike to Jones.
The Ravens led 21-6 when Beyonce came out to perform a stunning halftime show then opened the second half with a Super Bowl-record 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Jones that will be shown on highlight reels for generations to come.
But just when it seemed the result was a foregone conclusion, a section of the lights at the Superdome, hosting the Super Bowl for the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, blacked out.
Play was stopped for 35 minutes while red-faced officials and technicians restored power. When it came back on, the game instantly took on a completely different complexion.
With Colin Kaepernick finally finding his targets and making inroads with the football in hand, San Francisco piled on 17 unanswered points.
When Kaepernick rushed for a touchdown himself with just 10 minutes to go in the final quarter, the margin was down to just two points and momentum was on their side.
But Justin Tucker kicked a 38-yard field goal to give his five-team lead and the 49ers failed to score the touchdown they needed to win, getting only a two-point safety, as the Ravens defended their line for dear life.
“Five yards short, all the work we did in the offseason, the whole entire season, everything came down to five yards and we weren’t able to get it done,” said dejected 49ers tackle Joe Staley.
Both team played down the impact of the power outage, saying it was the same for both teams, while the Harbaugh brothers embraced each other as confetti rained down from the roof after one of the most emotional nights in American sport.
“I just love him obviously. I think anybody out there who has a brother can understand what that is all about,” John said.
“The meeting with Jim in the middle was probably the most difficult thing I have ever been associated with in my life. I am proud of him.”