NEW ORLEANS - It was fitting that the season filled with so many obstacles would be decided by the Baltimore Ravens' ability to overcome one final bit of adversity.
But despite a power outage early in the second half that swung the momentum of a game during which the Ravens appeared to be pulling away - and despite a San Francisco 49ers scoring run that put them in position for a game-winning touchdown in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter - the Ravens end the 2012 season and linebacker Ray Lewis' "last ride" as Super Bowl champions, holding on to defeat the 49ers 34-31 and claim the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Baltimore led 28-6 early in the third quarter before a power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that suspended play for 32 minutes. What followed the delay was a 49ers 23-6 scoring run that put San Francisco in a position - trailing by five points with just more than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter - to drive for a potentially game-deciding touchdown in the game's closing minutes.
The 49ers drove to Baltimore's 5-yard line, but Colin Kaepernick's fourth-down pass attempt fell incomplete and, despite everything that transpired during the second half - and despite everything that transpired throughout the course of the season - the Ravens are Super Bowl champions.
"It's never pretty," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "It's never perfect. But it's us. ... This feels great!"
Added Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta: "Oh my goodness. I mean, we had a ton of momentum at the time ... then the power goes out and we're waiting for what felt like an hour. We lost a lot of momentum and, credit goes to [the 49ers], they came storming back ... but this team has continued to fight and never quit. What a fitting [end]. ... It didn't make it easy, but it was fun."
Baltimore led 21-6 at halftime, and it extended its lead even more when Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half of 108 yards for a touchdown.
But after defensive end Art Jones sacked Kaepernick to force a third-and-13 on the 49ers' ensuing possession, the power went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And in a bizarre scene, the Ravens and 49ers were forced to wait on the sideline for more than 30 minutes as power was restored in the stadium.
When play resumed, a Baltimore offense that was on fire for much of the first half had gone flat while a San Francisco offense that was stagnant for much of the previous two-plus quarters all of a sudden came to life.
Kaepernick led scoring drives on the 49ers' next four possessions, trimming what was a 22-point deficit to just 31-29 with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
And after the Ravens drove for a Justin Tucker field goal on their ensuing possession, Kaepernick and the 49ers took over at their 20-yard line trailing just 34-29 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
San Francisco worked the ball to Baltimore's 5-yard line. But facing a fourth-and-goal at the Ravens' 5, Kaepernick was pressured by Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and his fourth-down pass attempt sailed beyond the reach of wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
The 49ers got one final shot with the ball - as the Ravens were forced to punt to Ted Ginn with four seconds left in the fourth quarter - but Ginn was brought down at midfield as time expired, and the Ravens were officially Super Bowl champions.
"It feels good," 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 deserve."
This is a team that dealt with the death of former owner Art Modell. It dealt with the death of wide receiver Torrey Smith's younger brother. It dealt with an exorbitant amount of injuries to key defensive players. It dealt with prolonged offensive struggles that resulted in the team firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with just four weeks remaining in the regular season.
And it went through a three-game losing streak late in the regular season that had many on a national level doubting the Ravens' viability as a Super Bowl contender heading into the playoffs.
But the team persevered, just as it did Sunday night.
"We're certainly glad it turned out the way it did," Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "[The power outage] was a slight interruption, but we've had a lot of adversity all through this season, and that was just another blip on the radar screen."
Quarterback Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP.
The quarterback that's been so heavily scrutinized on both a local and a national level since entering the league in 2008 completed a career-defining postseason run with 287 yards and three touchdowns against a 49ers defense that ranked as the NFL's fourth-best against the pass during the regular season.
All three of his scoring passes came during the first half, including an electrifying 56-yard touchdown pass to Jones that pushed Baltimore's lead to 21-3 with just less than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Flacco was 13-of-19 for 192 yards with the three scoring passes during the first half.
"I am a Joe Flacco fan," said Lewis, who was playing in the final game of his storied 17-year career. "I've been a Joe Flacco fan. For him to come in and do what he did today, and make some of the throws he made, that is what we've always seen. But we've always said that when you win a championship, one man won't win the ring. It will be a complete team. Today, we won as a complete team."
But it's a win that may not have culminated without that final defensive spot.
The 49ers finished with 468 yards of total offense, 289 of which came after the power outage. They got 302 yards through the air from Kaepernick and a combined 172 yards from Kaepernick and Frank Gore on the ground. But, in the game's biggest moment, and on the final defensive snap of Lewis' career, the Ravens defense came up with a stop, forcing the incomplete pass from Kaepernick that resulted in a turnover on downs with one minute, 46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"What a fitting way to end that game - our defense on the field and Ray Lewis in his last play," Pitta said. "They came up huge on the goal-line and got the stop."
It's a stop that propelled the Ravens to a world title, and a stop that provides an exclamation point on the illustrious career of Lewis.
The future Hall-of-Famer announced his plans to retire at the end of the season in the week leading up to the Ravens' playoff opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Less than a month later, he ends his career as a world champion.
"What better way to go out? And, I think, more importantly, it was my teammates in the way I went out - the things we've been through all year," Lewis said. "[We were] tested through this journey, it was an up-and-down rollercoaster - the injuries, the people - and we stayed together. And now, I get to ride off into the sunset with my second ring."