In a tale of two halves, fans around the nation (and the world) nearly witnessed the greatest comeback in NFL history. Nearly.
After an outstanding first half by Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens led the San Francisco 49ers 21-6.
Flacco’s line of 13-for-20, 192 yards and three touchdowns tells the story of the first half better than I can with words alone.
Both Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin were on the receiving end of scores, while Ray Rice helped the Ravens offense set up an effective play-action on offense.
Colin Kaepernick was clearly outplayed in the beginning of the Super Bowl. He passed for 139 yards, completing eight of his first 13 attempts. He also had a pass intercepted by Baltimore safety Ed Reed. Vernon Davis was the Niners' lone offensive highlight in the first half—he recorded 72 receiving yards on four receptions.
The bleeding was limited slightly when the 49ers narrowly prevented a fake field goal inside their 15-yard line.
The only scoring the 49ers managed in the first half was two field goals by David Akers.
If that wasn’t enough, Ravens return man Jacoby Jones tied a Super Bowl record with an 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half. It was initially recorded as 109 yards, but was later changed.
From there, Jim Harbaugh knew a comeback was probably not in the script for Super Bowl Sunday.
On an interesting note, half of the power went out in the Superdome—lights and sound were cut off. The lights continued to have a problem and there was a 34-minute delay for them to fully reboot. Whether it was the work of a frustrated 49ers fan (or player), we may never know.
Midway through the third quarter, Michael Crabtree gave the 49ers hope with a 29-yard touchdown catch to put the score at 28-13.
One drive later, Jim Harbaugh decided he was going to chase the comeback script after all. Frank Gore took a run outside and burst into the end zone from the Baltimore 6-yard line. The touchdown officially made it a one-score game at 28-20.
Meanwhile, Baltimore fans were wishing the power was still out.
The 49er surge continued.
A Ray Rice fumble on the next Ravens drive set the 49ers up at the Baltimore 24-yard line. David Akers walked onto the field again. After missing a 39-yard attempt, a running into the kicker penalty on Baltimore gave him a second try at a 34-yarder. It was perfect, and suddenly, it was a 5-point game.
The Ravens regained a bit of momentum when Flacco led a solid drive to the San Francisco 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter. However, the 49ers held a powerful goal-line stand against Ray Rice and blew up a play-action pass to force a field goal.
The score then read 31-23.
On the ensuing 49ers drive, big plays by both Randy Moss and Frank Gore led San Francisco to the Baltimore 15-yard line. Colin Kaepernick then took a snap and avoided pressure by going to his left—the scramble broke loose, and he recorded the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in Super Bowl history when he took it up the sideline for the score.
He ‘kissed’ his bicep in celebration.
The two-point conversion failed, but the 49ers had brought the score to within a field goal of taking the lead, 31-29.
The Ravens sustained another solid drive, but they once again failed to convert on a short third down conversion. A field goal put the score at 34-29.
And then what could be one of the most exciting ends to any football game unfolded before our eyes in the closing minutes.
Kaepernick went over 300 yards passing with a bullet pass to Crabtree, while Gore brought the 49ers offense to the Baltimore 7-yard line after a 33-yard run. The two-minute warning stopped the action at the 5-yard line.
It was the Baltimore defense against the 49ers offense to decide the Super Bowl—3rd-and-goal resulted in an incompletion.
On 4th-and-goal, Michael Crabtree was clearly held in the end zone as Ellerbe ran unblocked at Kaepernick. No flag was thrown.
Baltimore held onto their 34-31 lead following an intentional safety—the 49ers could not score on the ensuing punt return, and the clock ran out.
Ray Lewis goes out a champion. Joe Flacco wins his first Super Bowl.
And 49ers fans were left with The Final Countdown playing in the background.