February 3, 2013

Ravens beat blackout, Niners to see Super Bowl light 34-31

Overcoming tough odds has been part of Baltimore's title march all season.

When all was said and won , it was the Baltimore Ravens jumping on the dog pile Sunday, crying for joy, lifting their quarterback off the ground, wearing smiles along with championship hats and shirts.

The Ravens?!

No one would have thought this during their bye week with the Ravens coming off a blowout loss to the Houston Texans. Or in Denver in the divisional round when they trailed the Broncos by a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining and 70 yards from tying the game. Or maybe even late in Super Bowl XLVII with the San Francisco 49ers on the doorstep of taking their first lead.

The Ravens did it against long odds, holding on to win 34-31 despite a power outage and a San Francisco comeback.

“It’s never pretty. It’s never perfect. But it is us,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s who we are.”

The Ravens threatened to make it a runaway, going up 21-6 at the half on the strength of three touchdown passes by Joe Flacco, the MVP. They made it uglier by returning the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. But the 49ers were in a familiar position. They had trailed the Atlanta Falcons 17-0 before mounting the biggest comeback in NFC Championship Game history two weeks ago.

Sure enough, quarterback Colin Kaepernick nearly joined Joe Montana in 49ers’ Super Bowl lore.

“We battled right to the brink of winning,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Only three plays after Jacoby Jones’ record kickoff return, defensive end Arthur Jones sacked Kaepernick. What came next, with the 49ers facing a third-and-13, was a Super Bowl first: Most of the power went out in the Superdome, delaying the game for 33 minutes, 55 seconds.

“We had a ton of momentum at the time and just returned a kickoff and had everything rolling,” Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta said. “Then, the power goes out, and we’re waiting for what felt like an hour. We lost a lot of momentum, and credit to them. They came storming back.”

The 49ers scored on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree and then a 6-yard touchdown run from Frank Gore and then a 34-yard field goal from David Akers. Suddenly, the Ravens lead had shrunk to 28-23 heading into the fourth quarter.

“I just knew with Jim Harbaugh, that game was going to be a dogfight right to the end,” John Harbaugh said of his brother.

The crowd of 71,024, which included the Harbaughs’ parents, Jack and Jackie, was on its feet the entire fourth quarter as the teams traded punches. The knockout didn’t come until 1:46 remained, when the Ravens, leading 34-29, completed a goal-line stand.

It was a fitting end for Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced last month that he is retiring after 17 seasons.

“How could it be any other way than that?” Lewis said. “ This is the way you do it. No other way to go out and end a career.”

The 49ers had first-and-goal from the Baltimore 7 with 2:39 left. They ran LaMichael James for 2 yards, but that was as close as they would get. Kaepernick threw three straight incompletions, all three intended for Crabtree. The 49ers wanted a defensive holding penalty called on Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith on fourth down, but they didn’t get it.

The Ravens took an intentional safety on fourth down with 12 seconds left, and the confetti began falling as soon as the Ravens tackled 49ers returner Ted Ginn at midfield on a free kick with no time left.

“We heard we couldn’t beat San Fran,” Lewis said. “But we overcame all odds. It just shows what you can do when you believe in something. It shows what our team is about.”

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