Harbaugh Bowl: How the Blackout Turned a Blowout into an Instant Classic
Something like this has never happened on this big of a stage in the NFL. Stadium blackouts have happened before, but for one to happen in the middle of the Super Bowl is something that most people may have conditioned themselves to believe could never happen, and that the attention to detail that surrounds an event such as this would prevent it from ever happening.
But it did, early in the second half when half of the stadium lights in the Superdome went out. When play resumed 34 minutes later, it was an entirely different game from the one that was taking place before the blackout.
Before the blackout this game was on its way to being a blowout. Joe Flacco, who won the game’s MVP, had three touchdown passes and the bulk of his passing yards in the first half of the game. The biggest of those touchdowns was to Jacoby Jones, who saved a Flacco pass–which was definitely not his best of the day–by catching the ball while nearly sitting.
Jones then showed great awareness that he hadn’t been touched on the way to the turf, which allowed him to get up and shake off the surrounding San Francisco 49ers defenders on his way into the end zone. That score, a 56-yard play, brought the score to 21-3. But Jones wasn’t done there, as his 108-yard kickoff return touchdown to start the second half made it a 28-6 lead for the Baltimore Ravens and may have ended up being the kill shot had the game not been delayed.
Basically the entire second half remained, and to presume that having what amounted to an additional halftime for the 49ers to regroup wasn’t a factor in them nearly winning the game is insane. From a momentum standpoint, the 49ers were at death’s door when it came to winning this game, so much so that the comeback that ended up almost happening was historic in its own right.
The thing about the blackout is that it did benefit one team while hurting another…it really did. The 49ers got 34 minutes to re-think things before they were too far down to make a comeback, and that really did appear to be the way the game was heading. Remember, the Ravens’ offense hadn’t stepped onto the field yet in the second half. By the time they did take the field for the first time in the second half, nearly 80 minutes had passed in real time. That’s wasn’t a factor?
This was a team that was had a huge lead and just saw their best return man take one to the house. They didn’t have to sense blood because those jerseys the 49ers had on really did seem to be blood red by this point. The blackout offered a chance for them to stop the bleeding and patch up the wounds. In other words, it gave the 49ers a chance to calm down and re-focus.
The fact that the 49ers scored on their first four possessions following the blackout after they had punted the ball twice and turned the ball over twice in the first half backs up the theory that their batteries got re-charged. On the other hand, the Ravens’ offense didn’t score a touchdown after the blackout, and only got close enough to kick field goals twice.
It was a tale of two games, and that, combined with all the stories leading into the game and the blackout, added up to the most surreal Super Bowl ever. Whether that means it’s the best is up to you. I don’t think it’s the best one ever, but it definitely is up there.