NEW ORLEANS - The Baltimore Ravens team that beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday night in what has to be the most bizarre championship the NFL has ever seen, will never be confused with the Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV following the 2000 season.
This Joe Flacco-led offensive juggernaut averaged 31 points per game in the postseason. The champs from 12 years ago, of course, relied on a record-setting, intimidating, never-duplicated defense.
In fact, nearly every Ravens team since then has relied on defense. At least until this season, when the perpetually injured unit dropped into the bottom half of the NFL in defensive statistics.
Yet with nothing less than a Super Bowl at stake, after being outscored 23-6 following an unprecedented electrical failure at the Superdome that halted the game for more than 30 minutes, the defense summoned the spirit of 2000 for a stop that secured a second Lombardi Trophy, allowing the retiring Ray Lewis to go out with a confetti shower.
"It was nothing new for us," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We're in those type of battles. We just stayed together. We had to win four plays."
And they did. Four plays after San Francisco had secured a first-and-goal at the Baltimore 7-yard-line. Not that even the most diehard Ravens fan - or even a Raven - felt confident at the time.
"I was sitting there thinking there's no way, there's no way we stop them here," Flacco said. "But we did, and that's what our defense is all about."
Flacco was deservedly named MVP, but he doesn't get that award - or the Super Bowl ring - had the Ravens' defense not stopped Colin Kaepernick and a San Francisco offense that seemed unstoppable after the lights came back on.
Trailing 34-29, the Niners had yet again driven easily down the field. They were seven yards away from a championship.
But a first down play netted only two yards. A second down pass fell incomplete. After a San Francisco timeout, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith defended a third-down pass, meaning the game essentially came down to one play.
Kaepernick tried to throw a fade to Michael Crabtree, who had torched the Ravens all night. But Smith held up Crabtree at the goal line, the pass went too far for Crabtree to haul in, and trailing Ed Reed celebrated just a little. So did Lewis.
And, after running three plays, taking a safety and running out the clock with coverage of a free kick, the Ravens were Super Bowl champions again.
Steve Bisciotti was holding up the Lombardi Trophy. John Harbaugh was in possession of family bragging rights. And Flacco was smiling, knowing the question of whether he could lead a team to a Super Bowl title would never again be uttered.
All three were cheered during postgame interviews, but the loudest roar was saved for Lewis, as he held the Lombardi Trophy up, screaming that it was for Baltimore.
In that way, things did feel similar to 12 years ago, when a much younger Lewis was named MVP for leading a defensive unit that didn't allow the New York Giants to score.
That was the "Who Let the Dogs Out?" championship. This one will be remembered as "Who Turned the Lights Out?"
The power outage came not long after Jacoby Jones took the opening kickoff of the second half 108 yards for a touchdown that put the Ravens ahead 28-6. The rest of the game figured to be a coronation, much the way the second half of the Ravens' first Super Bowl was, in Tampa when Baltimore won 34-7, the Giants avoiding the only Super Bowl shutout by scoring on special teams.
Instead, a massive electrical failure caused the light banks, the video screens and the electronic scoreboards to go dark and the air conditioning to shut off. Only generator power kept the Superdome lit at all.
It was an eerie scene.
At a time when Lewis, Reed & Co. should've been trying to contain Kaepernick and the 49ers offense, they were, instead, standing around on the sideline, resting on the playing field or trying to stay loose in case the lights came back on.
More than 70,000 confused fans were told to remain in their seats as the stadium progressively got warmer. They passed the time by alternating between doing the wave and booing. A few random renditions of "Seven Nation Army," the Ravens' unofficial theme song, broke out, too, at a time when Ravens fans were secure in their belief that their team was well on its way to a relatively easy win.
"Oh my goodness, I mean, we had a ton of momentum at the time," said Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta.
If the semi-darkness didn't make the Ravens fans uneasy, the ensuing few minutes certainly did. This was no blowout, no sequel to Super Bowl XXXV. The Niners rallied and looked as if they were going to win. Until the defense stiffened.
"The final series of Ray Lewis' career was a goal-line stand," Harbaugh said afterward, noting how fitting that was.
Said Lewis: "We finished the race."
Even when it looked like they wouldn't. With defense. Just like last time.