When the power flicked on, section by section, I sensed that it came just before anger took hold of the crowd. But who knows really?
What we do know is that the Ravens and 49ers seemed to swap spirits during the outage. Suddenly, the team in red seemed so much faster at all points of the field, a great wave that swept over the Ravens. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked like the best kid at a middle-school recess game, zigging and zagging wherever he darn pleased. In slightly more than four minutes of game time, the Ravens’ lead went from a comfy 28-6 to a deeply unsettled 28-23.
The remaining 18 minutes became an exercise in desperate clinging. Anyone with an interest in the Ravens could hardly escape the thought: They’re going to be remembered as the team that lost the blackout game.
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That feeling extended all the way to the 49ers’ last drive, which brought them to the Ravens’ seven-yard line with less than three minutes on the clock. One stuffed run and two incomplete passes later, Kaepernick lofted a fourth-down throw to receiver Michael Crabtree, who was engaged in fierce hand-sparring with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.
As the ball sailed harmlessly beyond Crabtree’s grasp, a question lingered: Would a yellow penalty flag follow?
When it did not, thousands of Baltimore guts unclenched.
The indelible images came in a hurry from there. I remember a beaming Reed saying he was ready to lead a second-line parade through downtown New Orleans. And I believed he just might. I remember walking over mounds of confetti, taking in the vastness of the Superdome from field level as the celebration finally calmed. I remember greeting a victory-dazed Michael Phelps on the street outside the Superdome.
The next day, Flacco jetted from a groggy press conference in New Orleans to Orlando, Fla., where he rode next to Mickey Mouse in a red Corvette, and finally to New York for an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
The day after that, the Ravens partied on the streets of Baltimore with 200,000 eager well-wishers. Reed, one of many players who would soon be on their way to other teams, walked the Lombardi Trophy into the throng so regular folks could touch it.
And Lewis offered these last words for a city that had supported him through his most uncertain moments: “Baltimore, I love you, forever and ever and ever and ever.”