NEW ORLEANS — Midway through the third quarter of Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLVII, a Superdome spokesman issued a statement to explain what happened during the surreal 34-minute delay when the lights went out.
“Power has been restored,” Eric Eagan said. “We sincerely apologize for the incident.”
Forgive Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and the city of Baltimore if they bristled at the apology. How does one say I’m sorry for almost costing you the Super Bowl anyway?
As NFL and local officials got to the bottom of the embarrassment, the Ravens’ commanding 28-6 lead quickly became a one-possession toss-up when the 49ers scored two touchdowns in 2 minutes, 21 seconds after the outage. Indeed, electricity returned to the building in every way and suspense suddenly filled the air again in a 34-31 victory for the Ravens that was not decided until the final tick.
All the while, Joe Flacco shrugged.
“Hey, those things happen,” the Super Bowl most valuable player said of the bizarre circumstances. “We just had to go out and do our job.”
Ho and hum. Flacco had waited five years to establish himself as an elite NFL quarterback. No snafu at the Superdome delaying the inevitable another half-hour was going to unnerve the coolest Joe since Montana. No fourth-quarter drama was going to faze the unflappable quarterback who showed his most emotion of Super Bowl week celebrating as confetti fell around him.
“Crazy. Unbelievable. It’s tough to put into words,” Flacco said.
Go ahead and believe that Ray Lewis willed a 10-6 Ravens team to this Super Bowl title if you wish. But the Ravens winning four straight postseason games had more to do with Flacco emerging as a $20 million quarterback than Lewis retiring as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Flacco always deserved more attention, but the Big Easy story revolved around whether Lewis took a banned substance made of deer-antler extract to help him go out in style. Excessive interest in Lewis overshadowed the importance of Flacco, until it mattered most.
On third-and-1 at the Ravens’ 45 with 7:14 left, Flacco changed the play to a fade route after noticing 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers lined up in man coverage against Anquan Boldin. The back-shoulder throw Flacco made to Boldin for a 15-yard gain displayed his trademark smarts and savvy.
“That just shows you he’s got the guts of a burglar,” the Ravens’ John Harbaugh said.
It set up a field goal that forced the 49ers to need a touchdown instead of a field goal on their potential game-winning drive. The Ravens’ goal-line stand became part of Lewis’ legacy when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sailed a pass into the corner of the end zone over Michael Crabtree. The incomplete pass ended a game in which the difference in experience between the two starting quarterbacks was glaring. Shaky at times, Kaepernick was making his 10th NFL start as Flacco was making history.
“We heard he couldn’t beat Denver, he couldn’t beat New England, he couldn’t beat San Francisco,” Ray Lewis said of Flacco. “He never wavered.”
Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Brees … Flacco? If not the top five NFL quarterbacks, Flacco’s knack for pulling out playoff games cements him in the top 10. A Super Bowl ring stamps Flacco as a special quarterback who can lead a team instead of a capable one who is merely along for the ride. Flacco completed 22-of-33 passes for 287 yards for three TDs. Those weren’t elite statistics; they were unheard-of numbers for a quarterback playing in his first Super Bowl.
He conspired on this Super Bowl’s first time-capsule moment when Flacco unleashed a pass for wide receiver Jacoby Jones. When the underthrown ball finally got to Jones, he caught it, fell and raced laterally toward the end zone to complete a 56-yard touchdown — a fitting metaphor for Flacco’s success.
The play was perfectly imperfect, just like the man who authored it; the man who now stands to cash in as an unrestricted free agent after another money performance.
“That’s the last thing I’m concerned about,” Flacco said of the contract. “But he did let me know that if the day came I could go beat on his desk and really put it to him. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Flacco earned the right to pound his fist. His postseason record improved to 9-4 and he threw 11 touchdowns in these playoffs without an interception. He isn’t fleet-footed or quick-witted and nobody on Madison Avenue has lined up at Flacco’s door – yet. Flacco’s dad even was quoted calling his son dull, not that Flacco disagreed.
“It’s just who I am,” he said.
Boring not only was better but contributed to making Flacco the best on a night he shined for four quarters no matter how dark things looked.