In a city that got a second life and a second chance to be a player on the world stage, where first helpings are good but second helpings are always so much better, we come to the end of Super Bowl XLVII and ask:
Can we get a second, NFL? And soon?
They’ve been putting Roman numerals on Super Bowls for a long time now. Maybe this one should be rechristened Super Bowl XLVII!. From the bright shining plays on both sides of the ball to the spooky third-quarter power failure that made the Mercedes-Benz Superdome look like the backdrop for an Anne Rice novel, there literally was never a Super Bowl like it before — good or bad.
At first, in terms of drama, it looked like bad would win in a rout.
The Baltimore Ravens came out and jumped on the San Francisco 49ers, grabbing a 21-6 halftime lead. In the 11 seconds it took Jacoby Jones to race 108 yards with his tape-measure kickoff return to start the second half, the Ravens were up 28-6 and had seemingly turned the 49ers’ lights out.
Then the lights went out, literally, for about 35 minutes. The only ones left on, fittingly enough, blazed in a couple of crescent circles at the top of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, beaming right down on the Ravens’ bench.
Cunningly, though, it was the 49ers who used the cover of darkness to huddle behind a covey of Beyonce’s backup singers, retool their attack and reel in the Ravens.
Once the power came back on with 13:22 left in the third quarter, San Francisco began its deadly race with the clock. The 49ers stormed back with 17 unanswered points in a span of 4:10 to make it a 28-23 game going into the fourth quarter.
Baltimore, mixing enough spot-on Joe Flacco passes and crunching runs by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, managed only a couple of Justin Tucker field goals the rest of the way. But it was enough to hold off young upstart Colin Kaepernick and the Niners 34-31.
Just barely enough.
With a world championship in play, the difference between glory and goat came down to 5 yards between a dangerous 49ers offense and an obstinate Ravens defense, Baltimore leading 34-29 with just under two minutes left.
The 49ers piled up 468 yards to the Ravens’ 375, but critically three times in the game San Francisco thundered deep into Baltimore territory and netted just two field goals. On the last chance, fourth-and-goal at the 5, Kaepernick fired high against a heavy rush for Michael Crabtree. The 49ers went away begging for a flag on cornerback Jimmy Smith that would never come.
A dramatic game was bookended by drama both personal and poignant.
Dry eyes were in short supply before the game as a choir of children from Sandy Hook Elementary joined Jennifer Hudson — her family itself scarred by gun violence — to sing “America the Beautiful.” Anyone who has a sibling who they’ve been close to was similarly moved after the game to see Ravens coach John Harbaugh embrace his younger brother Jim, the 49ers coach, in a moment that only they could truly comprehend.
As for the power failure, it put a dark mark on what has been a bright and sunny return to the Super Bowl spotlight for the city of New Orleans for the first time since 2002.
Couple the blackout with the grousing some national media was already doing about the Superdome’s recently moved press box that is now higher than planes in a holding pattern over Louis Armstrong Airport, and the week won’t end as well as it should have.
New Orleans is hoping to lure the Super Bowl back in 2018 for the city’s tricentennial. Hopefully a blown fuse and a greedy grab for suites won’t keep the Super Bowl from returning to its best possible host city soon.
Then again, how will they follow up a Super Bowl like this?