NEW ORLEANS - The San Francisco 49ers found out what it's like to play Joe Montana and Steve Young in a Super Bowl.
Despite a 34-minute power-outage delay that rattled Baltimore at precisely the moment it was poised for a blowout, it was Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco who cemented his own Joe Cool reputation by winning Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player award in a 34-31 victory in front of 71,024 fans at the Superdome.
"Joe Montana has been my favorite quarterback," said Flacco, whose three touchdowns without an interception matched Montana's NFL mark of most TDs (11) without an interception in one postseason. "To be put anywhere next to him is pretty cool."
Years from now, this night will be remembered for Baltimore's John Harbaugh coaching against and beating his brother, Jim. For Ray Lewis ending his 17-year Hall of Fame career with a goal-line stand with the Lombardi Trophy on the line inside the two-minute warning. And for the lights going out inside the Superdome.
But it also needs to be remembered for how well Flacco played before the delay and how he grabbed the wheel of a free-falling team before it blew what would have been the biggest lead, 28-6, in Super Bowl history.
Of course, what else would you expect from this guy? In back-to-back playoff games this year, he dismissed Peyton Manning with a Hail Mary in the closing seconds at Denver and Tom Brady with three second-half touchdown passes at New England.
Flacco came in as the traditional drop-back passer who had won at least one playoff game in five consecutive seasons. Yet it was the 49ers who were favored in part because Colin Kaepernick, despite only nine career NFL starts, represented a new wave of dual-threat quarterbacks who will drive defensive coordinators crazy for decades to come.
Yet it was the 49ers and Kaepernick who self-destructed with penalties, broken plays and two turnovers while Flacco threw three first-half touchdowns, including a 56-yarder to Jacoby Jones on third-and-10, as the Ravens took a 21-6 lead.
Jones made it 28-6 when he took the second-half kickoff a Super Bowl-record 108 yards for a touchdown. But three snaps later, after a sack by Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, all but the emergency backup lights went out with the 49ers facing a third-and-13 situation with 13:22 left in the third quarter.
Power slowly was restored after 16 minutes and play resumed in 34 minutes. Or at least the 49ers resumed play in 34 minutes. As for the Ravens, well, it took much longer for them to get restarted. And once they did, they sputtered until taking a safety with 4 seconds left and then tackling 49ers punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. at midfield as time expired.
In the ensuing 4:10 of game clock following the power outage, the Ravens were held to one first down, outgained 120-10 and outscored 17-0.
The Ravens then managed a 19-yard field goal after being stopped three times from the 1-yard line, but the 49ers came right back under Kaepernick, who threw a 32-yard pass to former Viking Randy Moss (two catches for 41 yards) before capping the ensuing drive with an 15-yard touchdown run. The 49ers went for two points, but Kaepernick threw incomplete to Moss when the 49ers failed to pick up a blitz.
The Ravens clung to a 31-29 lead with 10:04 left when Flacco and receiver Anquan Boldin made what might have been the biggest play of the game. Boldin made a great 15-yard catch with cornerback Carlos Rogers smothering him on third-and-inches from the Baltimore 45. That enabled the Ravens to drain another three minutes off the clock and get a 38-yard field goal from rookie kicker Justin Tucker. The Ravens led 34-29 with 4:19 left.
"Joe is phenomenal," John Harbaugh said. "We are sitting third-and-6-inches and Joe has three play options and decides to throw the fade to Anquan. He throws it right on the money. To me, that shows guts. He has got the guts of a burglar. He was making plays all night."
But then it was Kaepernick's turn. He threw 24 yards to Michael Crabtree, surpassing 300 yards in the process. Then Frank Gore broke free for 33 yards to the Ravens 7-yard line.
Three plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 5, the Ravens blitzed. Kaepernick threw quickly and incomplete to Crabtree, who was smothered by cornerback Jimmy Smith in the right corner of the end zone.
Kaepernick looked nervous in the first half. He overthrew Moss with an ugly ball that safety Ed Reed turned into his NFL playoff-record-tying ninth career interception.
The interception was the first by a 49ers quarterback in a Super Bowl. It broke a streak of 170 passes, most of them coming from Montana and Young, who combined to go 5-0 in Super Bowls.
Flacco, meanwhile, posted a 124.2 passer rating while winning his first Super Bowl, the Ravens' second Super Bowl and tying Brady for most playoff victories in his first five seasons (nine).
"I think it's fitting that we won this way," Flacco said. "Crazy. Unbelievable. Pretty cool."
Pretty cool QB, too.