A yawner becomes a thriller

Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after

Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after defeating the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII. (Feb. 3, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS

We've seen plenty of signature moments and wacky events in the nearly half-century history of Super Bowls, but there has never been anything like this. But to whoever or whatever was responsible for the first-ever blackout in Super Bowl history, we say . . . thanks!

What was looking like a blowout win for Baltimore in the battle of the Harbaugh brothers quickly turned into a Super Bowl classic, a 34-31 Ravens win over the 49ers Sunday night that made this sibling rivalry one of the most compelling acts in the sport's annals.

If the lights don't suddenly start going out with 13:22 left in the third quarter and the Ravens holding a 28-6 lead after Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return to start the second half, the HarBowl might have been the HarBlowout.

But after a delay of more than a half-hour that left players and coaches standing around, stretching and -- in Ravens coach John Harbaugh's case -- screaming at NFL officials for some answers, the game turned into one of the most compelling we've ever seen.

Sure, the NFL prides itself on meticulous planning and seamlessly scripted productions. And surely there is plenty of embarrassment on the part of league officials when the lights started dimming and the players were forced to the sidelines to wait for the wattage to return to the Superdome.

It was straight out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The only thing missing was Clark Griswold's befuddled look from his front lawn while trying to turn on the lights.

Somewhere out there, New Orleans' answer to Ellen Griswold flipped the switch and got the lights back on. And Super Bowl XLVII went from clunker to classic.

The extended break gave the once-jittery Colin Kaepernick time to settle down and make a game of it. After a first half in which it looked as though this game was going to be too big for him, he hung in and rallied the 49ers in a terrific comeback.

From 28-6, it went to 28-13 . . . then 28-20 . . . then 28-23.

Then, with the Ravens leading 34-29 with less than two minutes to play: Fourth-and-goal from the Ravens' 5 . . . Kaepernick back to pass . . . the ball lofted to the right corner of the end zone for Michael Crabtree, who appears to be held on the play . . . incomplete!

The Ravens thus survived one of the most bizarre and unexpected off-field developments in Super Bowl history.

"We don't make anything easy," said quarterback Joe Flacco, who was named MVP. "I think we gave the country a pretty good game to watch."

John Harbaugh said he had a feeling it would turn out the way it did. "When the lights went out, I just knew, with Jim Harbaugh being on the other side, that that game was going to be a dogfight," John said. "There's no greater competitor, there's no greater coach in the NFL or the world, as far as I'm concerned, as Jim Harbaugh."

And that postgame handshake? "The meeting with Jim in the middle of the field was probably the most difficult thing I've had to deal with in my life," he said.

John told his brother he loved him. Jim offered congratulations in a brief exchange that did not include a hug but included a firm handshake and a look into one another's eyes.

"We want to handle this with class and grace," a dejected Jim said. "Had several opportunities in the game. Didn't play our best game. Our guys battled back to get back in it. We competed and battled to win."

The final ride for Ray Lewis, who ended his 17-year career with the Ravens, ended just the way he had dreamed: with confetti pouring down from the rafters. His last play on the field: fourth down on a goal-line stand.

"There's no greater way as a champ to go out on your last ride," he said, "with the men I went out with, my teammates and . . . Baltimore!"

The conclusion could not have been more dramatic, the post-blackout excitement more exhilarating. From HarBore to HarBrilliant, this is one we'll never forget.

And at least the NFL can smile through all that egg on its face, thanking the blackout for making this one of the best Super Bowls yet.

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