NEW ORLEANS — Big brother won this time.
John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens withstood a furious comeback from young brother Jim’s San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31, Sunday night.
The victory ensures that retiring linebacker Ray Lewis’s final ride will end in a parade through the streets of the city that has adopted him as its own during his 17-year career.
Baltimore led, 21-6, at halftime and then, 28-6, after All-Pro Jacoby Jones took the second-half kickoff a Super Bowl-record 108 yards for a touchdown, before San Francisco began chipping away at the deficit.
The 49ers pulled within 5 points, and were 5 yards from the end zone with less than two minutes to play, but could not complete the comeback.
“This game was like this season,” Ravens safety Ed Reed said. “It started good, it got ugly, and it ended great.”
When Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers replay the loss in their minds, they will look at their final possession, when suspect play-calling and a blown holding call led to them missing out on the potential winning score.
Harbaugh shrugged off any questions about the plays called, and instead pointed to what he felt was the holding penalty that wasn’t called.
“There is no question in my mind there was pass interference [on second down], and a hold on [Michael] Crabtree on that last one,” he said.
Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco, who had been longing for respect, left no doubt that he has no fear of the big moment, going 22 for 33 for 287 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Over the Ravens’ four-game playoff run to the Lombardi Trophy, Flacco threw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Flacco said. “Crazy. Unbelievable. It’s tough to put into words because it really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Flacco said he has never cared about his detractors, which isn’t exactly true, but said of winning the Super Bowl, “We’ll have this thing forever,” knowing full well that quarterback greatness is measured in rings, not regular-season victories or statistics.
“It feels good,” John Harbaugh said. “It feels really good, actually. I would like to be more profound than that, but I do not have those words . . . It feels like all the guys that worked so hard, stuck together through trials, tribulations, difficulties, and maintained faith, it feels like they got what they deserved.”
It isn’t just the winner of this game that will be remembered. At 8:37 p.m. EST, with 13:22 remaining in third quarter, much of the power went out in the Superdome.
For 34 minutes, with several apologies and requests for fans’ patience from the public address announcer, the video screens and message boards were out, the air conditioning was down, and there was scrambling among game and dome officials as they tried to figure out what had gone wrong and how to fix it.
During the delay, players stretched and found other ways to stay loose.
When the power came back on, it was as if it reenergized the 49ers, as well.
They scored 17 points in short order, turning what looked like a blowout into the makings of a close game.
But those crucial final plays for the 49ers are what may stick with them the longest. Suddenly, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, known for his ability to run as well as he throws, wasn’t being asked to make the same type of plays he’d been successful with to that point. Jim Harbaugh said only one play in those final few was a run-pass option.
A third-down pass for Crabtree was broken up, and then on fourth down, Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees called for a blitz.
But not just any blitz — the same blitz he called when he was with the Patriots in the closing moments of Super Bowl XLII, a play that didn’t work then but worked on Sunday night. Kaepernick rushed his throw, looking to Crabtree again, and while it’s clear Crabtree was held, Kaepernick’s pass was long.
“We played well in the red zone,” Pees said. “To me, that was the difference for us in the game.”
San Francisco was just 2 for 6 scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
In the postgame interview area, the Ravens shouted to one another as they sat as their raised podiums, some cradling small children, or others, like Reed, seeming to have trouble processing what had happened.
Reed talked about winning the Super Bowl in his hometown — he grew up just a few miles from New Orleans — and referenced Charity Hospital, where he was born, and which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
He apologized to reporters “for my pronunciation,” then the normally media-shy safety shouted, “I’ve never been so happy to do interviews!”
Before Reed left the podium, he briefly sang, “Two Tickets to Paradise,” which he also sang after the Ravens won the AFC Championship game two weeks earlier.
Flacco, generally reserved, said of the celebration, “It snowed confetti and it was all for us. It felt good.”