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Via USA Today
NEW ORLEANS -- Super Bowl coaches John and Jim Harbaugh will have plenty to talk about at future family reunions about the time they met in perhaps the strangest game in Super Bowl history.
John's Baltimore Ravens held on for a 34-31 victory vs. Jim's San Francisco 49ers that came down to the Niners' fourth-and-goal from the 5 that fell incomplete, a furious finish that might well never have happened but for a bizarre 33-minute delay for a power outage that turned the game's momentum inside-out.
Jim harangued the referees for what he felt was defensive holding on the game's crucial play and John executed smart strategy at the game's conclusion, ordering his punter to take an intentional safety while killing eight seconds, allowing the Ravens to end the game with a free kick.
And then the brothers walked to midfield and spoke briefly, patting each other quickly, and the confetti flew. The underdog Ravens served as pigskin proxy for their coach, who is 15 months older, and one Lombardi Trophy better, than his kid brother — but barely.
"How could it be any other way?" John Harbaugh said. "It's never perfect, never pretty, but it's us. It was hard (going against Jim), the hardest thing I've ever experienced. I told him I loved him. He said 'Congratulations.'"
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco made good on his boast prior to the season that he is an elite quarterback as he was named Most Valuable Player. He threw three first-half touchdown passes to cap a postseason in which he threw 11 TD passes with no interceptions.
"It's unbelievable," he said on the victory stand. "I'll tell you what: We don't make it easy. But that's the way the city of Baltimore is, that's the way we are."
Linebacker Ray Lewis ended his career with Super Bowl glory. "It's no greater way as a champ to go out on your last ride with the men that I went out with," he said, "with my teammates."
Kaepernick threw incompletions to Michael Crabtree on second and third down on the 49ers' final drive to set up a last crack at the end zone. A fade for Crabtree fell incomplete, though perhaps cornerback Jimmy Smith got away with a hold. Replays showed Smith, who had broken up the pass for Crabtree on a short out pattern one play prior, had a fistful of Crabtree's jersey.
"Yes, there's no question in my mind there was pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one," Jim Harbaugh said.
Said Crabtree: "When somebody grabs you, you always expect a call, but you can't whine to the refs. It is what it is."
The Ravens led 28-6 before the outage because they were bolder and tougher and because the favored 49ers made critical mistakes, beginning with the first play from scrimmage, when they inexplicably lined up in an illegal formation, and the first play of the second half, when they gave up a 108-yard kickoff return to Jacoby Jones.
Shortly after that, banks of lights at the Superdome went out. Ravens cornerback Corey Graham was standing right at midfield, on the 50-yard stripe and in the center of the NFL logo. Graham threw his hands up into the darkness, as if he knew what the power outage would mean to his team's momentum. And Graham was right.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the game.(Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)
Good thing for Graham and his teammates they were able to stave off the 49ers' furious run and, like the lights high above them in the Superdome, they were re-energized just in time to make a stop on that fourth-and-goal and become Super Bowl champions for the second time in team history.
Two field goals by rookie kicker Justin Tucker in the fourth quarter provided the only six points the Ravens would get after the delay, against the 23 points the Niners put up. But that's all Baltimore needed. It was as if not even an unforeseen event could stop the Ravens and Lewis' attempt to end his career by going out on top.
This Super Bowl was a festival of firsts. Brothers had never before been opposing coaches. No Super Bowl had ever been held up for so long. And the 49ers had never before thrown an interception in five previous Super Bowls, all wins.
And when Colin Kaepernick threw what Joe Montana and Steve Young never had, the opposing teams got into a glowering, menacing shoving match, as if maybe Mother Harbaugh needed to come down on the field and break it up.
Flacco was the one doing the Montana impression, tossing those three first-half touchdown passes. The first came after an offside penalty extended a drive. The second came after a 49ers fumble. The third came not directly after that interception — that drive was thwarted when a fake field goal came up just short — but on the punt that followed.
That TD pass went 56 yards to Jones, who was so open that he waited for the ball to arrive, fell backward and then got up and ran into the end zone, as if this were pitch-and-catch, you-go-long touch football in the coaches' boyhood backyard.
"Fitting that we won that way," Flacco said of the furious finish. "Niners got a little momentum and we had to win it at the end. That's the way it's always been with us."
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Ray Lewis goes out a winner
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