NEW ORLEANS — Where do we start?
Where do we finish?
Super Bowl XLVII was one for the ages.
It started with Baltimore coach John Harbaugh putting his arm around his daughter, Alison, while kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School sang “America The Beautiful.”
It ended with Ray Lewis, looking like an ancient Joe Hardy turning into a 70-year-old man, crying, praising the Lord, and holding the Lombardi Trophy.
The Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, Sunday night in the Superdome. Baltimore’s much-maligned quarterback, Joe Flacco, was named MVP for his 22-for-33, three-touchdown performance. In the 2013 playoffs, Flacco had 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He outplayed Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and was Super Bowl MVP.
This one truly had everything — including an unfathomable 34-minute power outage in the third quarter — a blackout that seemed to energize the 49ers while sucking the life out of the Ravens.
“It’s never pretty,’’ said John Harbaugh. “It’s never perfect. But it is us.’’
The whole thing was biblical, including brother (John Harbaugh) vs. brother (Niners coach Jim Harbaugh). Somebody will write a book about it. It may, in fact, inspire as much literature as the magical run of the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
All Super Bowl stories this year start and end with Lewis, and so we pay homage to the 17-year veteran who announced his retirement before the start of the playoffs, then face-painted and face-planted his way to a championship walkoff game. Lewis spoke of “The Journey.’’ He reminded us that “no weapons forged against you will prevail.’’ And then he willed his team to four consecutive playoff victories.
“This is the way to do it,’’ he said. “No other way to go out and end a career.’’
In the end, Lewis had nothing left but his mighty roar. He was too old and broke to keep up with freakishly skilled San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But Lewis was on the field, in the middle of the action, when the Ravens stoned the Niners four straight downs inside the 8-yard line in the final two-plus minutes.
“How else can you finish that off but with a goal-line stand?’’ said Lewis. “We kept them out of the end zone on the 2-yard line. That is championship football.’’
The third-quarter blackout is probably destined to stand as the signature moment of the night. The Ravens were playing . . . lights-out. They were leading the 49ers, 28-6.
Fans in the Superdome did not panic when the lights went out. There was enough auxiliary lighting to see in front of your face. And Lord knows folks in New Orleans have been through much worse than a little power outage in the middle of the Super Bowl.
Fans did the wave. They cheered. Then they booed. One of my Twitter friends said the outage was the city of New Orleans taking its revenge on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
When the lights came back on and play resumed, San Francisco scored 17 straight points. After a Baltimore chip-shot field goal, Kaepernick scored on a 15-yard keeper to close the gap to 31-29. The Niners went for a 2-point conversion, but Kaepernick’s pass was incomplete.
The Ravens regained their composure and went down the field for another field goal to make it 34-29.
Needing a touchdown for the win, Kaepernick took over on his own 20 and carved up the wheezing Ravens. A 33-yard run by Frank Gore gave the Niners first and goal from the 7 with 2:39 left. A touchdown seemed certain.
But the Ravens dug deep. They allowed a 2-yard run, then forced three consecutive incomplete passes. There was plenty of contact and Bay Area fans no doubt will cry “foul,’’ but the Ravens were simply better when it mattered most. A blitz forced Kaepernick to overthrow Michael Crabtree on fourth down.
That was it. Except for the safety and free kick.
What a night.
Pregame was emotional. Millions wept while Jennifer Hudson sang with the Sandy Hook chorus. Then came Alicia Keys at the piano for the national anthem.
Baltimore won the toss and — in perfect Patriot fashion — elected to kick off.
Flacco completed 13 of 20 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, which ended with Baltimore leading, 21-6. After a stirring halftime featuring Beyonce and all the single ladies, Raven Jacoby Jones took the second-half kickoff 108 yards to make it 28-6.
No team in Super Bowl history has ever come back from more than a 10-point halftime deficit to win, but the Niners know what it’s like to play from behind. San Francisco trailed Atlanta, 17-0, in the NFC Championship game.
All the energy shifted during the delay. When play resumed, the Niners carried the play and the Ravens struggled to hang on.
They succeeded. They won the Super Bowl. So, maybe the Patriots’ AFC Championship loss to Baltimore was not a disgrace.
Sometime today, the Ravens should send a Super Bowl playoff share to Denver safety Rahim Moore — the Rocky Mountain Bill Buckner. Moore is the D-back who somehow let Jones get behind him for a 70-yard, game-tying touchdown in Baltimore’s division-round shocker at Mile High. That play came with 31 seconds remaining and Baltimore fresh out of timeouts. That game was over and the Ravens were losers. But then everything changed.
Now the Ravens are champs, Lewis is retired, Flacco is the biggest thing in Baltimore since Cal Ripken Jr. . . . and Super Bowl XLVII goes into the books as one of the greatest of all time.