After one of the most memorable quarters in Super Bowl history, the Baltimore Ravens head into the fourth with a 28-23 lead over the San Francisco 49ers.
Jacoby Jones opened the half by re-stating his unlikely case for Super Bowl MVP. He received the kickoff at the back of his endzone, made one downfield cut, then broke loose for a 108-yard touchdown—tied for the longest kickoff return in NFL history.
Then, one of the weirdest moments in NFL history occurred. During the 49ers' subsequent drive, the New Orleans Superdome lost power.
The scene, practically taken out of The Dark Knight Rises, put a 34-minute halt in the action. Players stretched to keep loose on the field during the delay, while CBS struggled to repair its feed to Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
Grantland's Bill Simmons, live from New Orleans, was one of many who took to Twitter with some snark:
The PA announcer keeps saying service will be restored "momentarily." Creative interpretation of that word.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) February 4, 2013
After the bizarre, lengthy interlude, San Francisco failed to convert a third down and punted the ball to Baltimore, who promptly followed suit and punted it back.
On their next drive, however, the Niners finally started to make some offensive progress. Kaepernick made a couple of huge plays with his legs, then found Michael Crabtree on a 31-yard touchdown. B/R's own Aaron Nagler lamented the Ravens' attempt at "tackling:"
Nice tackling. WRAP UP. smh— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) February 4, 2013
From there, Baltimore's poor play continued to snowball. In order:
- A horrible, horrible job by the offensive line leads to a drive-ending sack by Ahmad Brooks.
- A shank-of-a-punt by Sam Koch bounces to Ted Ginn Jr. around midfield. Ginn reverses fields, almost gets the full corner and goes down at the Ravens' 20-yard line.
- San Francisco needs just two plays—a 14-yard pass to Vernon Davis and a six-yard run by Frank Gore—to find the end zone. (Haloti Ngata also heads to the locker room in noticeable pain.)
- Ray Rice, normally one of the most sure-handed backs in the league, has a screen pass poked away by cornerback Tarell Brown. The 49ers recover on Baltimore's 24-yard line.
- David Akers misses a 39-yard field goal, but the play is negated by a pointless running-into-the-kicker penalty. On the re-kick, Akers is good from 34.
And just like that, we had ourselves a five-point game. About halfway through the meltdown, Gregg Rosenthal tweeted about the massive, narrative-altering elephant in the room—how the power outage affected Baltimore's rhythm:
From the AP: the Ravens offense was off the field for 84 minutes. Since then: 1 first down in two drives— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) February 4, 2013
With its back against the wall, Baltimore finally managed to stop the bleeding on its next drive. A 30-yard catch by Anquan Boldin, and a massive third-down conversion by Bernard Pierce, have the Ravens on San Francisco's 18-yard line to start the fourth.
*If you're playing a Super Bowl box game, the winning numbers were Baltimore 8, San Francisco 3.*