Instead of a blowout, the blackout turned the big game into a shootout.
"How could it be any other way? It's never pretty. It's never perfect. But it's us," coach John Harbaugh said after winning the sibling showdown with younger brother Jim. "It was us today."
The Ravens used a last-gasp defensive stand to hold on after the momentum strangely swung to the 49ers. San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree was bumped in the end zone on the 49ers' final offensive play -- the contact appeared incidental - but coach Jim Harbaugh insisted a penalty should have been called.
"There's no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold," Jim Harbaugh said.
America's biggest sporting event came to a half-hour standstill in the third quarter when most of the Superdome lights and the scoreboards went dark. By then, the Ravens had a 22-point lead.
"I think it speaks to our resolve, speaks to our determination, speaks to our mental toughness," John Harbaugh said. "That is what wins and loses games."
The loss of power left players from both sides stretching and chatting with each other. It also slowed Baltimore's surge, and that was considerable after Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return and Flacco's three touchdown passes made it 28-6.
Flacco's big start boosted him to the MVP award.
"They have to give it to one guy and I'm not going to complain that I got it," said Flacco, who soon will get a rich new contract. His current deal expired with this win.
Down by three TDs, back came San Francisco in search of its sixth Lombardi Trophy in as many tries.
Tucker added a 38-yarder with 4:19 remaining, setting up the frantic finish.
"It's very tough," John Harbaugh said, referring to their conversation. "It's a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It's very painful."
Only one other championship game in the NFL's 80-year title game history, Pittsburgh's 35-31 win over Dallas in 1979, featured both teams scoring at least 30 points.
In the first half, Flacco was as brilliant as Tom Brady, Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw ever were in the NFL's biggest game. The only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons -- his coach holds the same distinction -- was nearly perfect. Overall, Flacco threw for 11 touchdowns to tie a postseason record, and had no interceptions.
The Ravens stumbled into the playoffs with four defeats in its last five regular-season games as Lewis recovered from a torn right triceps and Flacco struggled. Harbaugh even fired his offensive coordinator in December, a stunning move with the postseason so close.
New Orleans native Jones, one of the heroes in a double-overtime playoff win at Denver, seemed to put the game away with his record 108-yard sprint with the second-half kickoff.
Until the final moments.
Lewis sprawled on all fours, face-down on the turf, after the end zone incompletion.
"It's no greater way, as a champ, to go out on your last ride with the men that I went out with, with my teammates," Lewis said. "And you looked around this stadium and Baltimore! Baltimore! We coming home, baby! We did it!"
"Our guys battled back to get back in," the 49ers coach said. "I thought we battled right to the brink of winning."
The 49ers couldn't have been sloppier in the first half, damaging their chances with penalties -- including one on their first play that negated a 20-yard gain -- poor tackling and turnovers. Rookie LaMichael James fumbled at the Baltimore 25 to ruin an impressive drive, and the Ravens converted that with Flacco's 1-yard pass to Pitta for a 14-3 lead.
Reed, also a New Orleans native, tied the NFL record for postseason picks with his ninth.
Baltimore didn't pounce on that mistake for points. Instead, Tucker's fake field goal run on fourth-and-9 came up a yard short when Chris Culliver slammed him out of bounds.
The Ravens simply shrugged, forced a three-and-out, and then unleashed Jones deep. Just as he did to Denver, he flashed past the secondary and caught Flacco's fling. He had to wait for the ball, fell to the ground to grab it, but was untouched by a Niner. Up he sprang, cutting left and using his speed to outrun two defenders to the end zone.
Desperate for some points, the 49ers completed four passes and got a 15-yard roughing penalty against Haloti Ngata, who later left with a knee injury. But again they couldn't cross the goal line, Paul Kruger got his second sack of the half on third down, forcing a second Akers field goal, from 27 yards.
When Jones began the second half by sprinting up the middle virtually untouched -- he is the second player with two TDs of 50 yards or more in a Super Bowl, tying Washington's Ricky Sanders in 1988 -- the rout was on.
Then it wasn't.
The Ravens' thrilling victory provided a grand finale for the Big Easy, which hosted its first Super Bowl since 2002 and first since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. But it's been a tough year for local fans. A bounties scandal and resultant suspensions helped ruin the Saints' season almost before it began, making Commissioner Roger Goodell the city's Public Enemy No. 1.
The season also was marred by a lockout of the on-field officials that turned farcical when replacement refs couldn't handle the job.
Even Super Bowl week was disrupted by reports that deer-antler spray, of all things, might have been used by NFL players as a performance enhancer.
And then the NFL's showcase event was stopped cold by a lack of power.
Flacco, though, provided plenty of sizzle.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press