The lights went out at the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday night, and while the 34-minute power outage in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII briefly flipped the switch for the trailing San Francisco 49ers, the Baltimore Ravens — who never trailed — proved more resourceful in a 34-31 victory.
With 13:22 left in the third quarter and the Ravens holding a 28-6 lead, about half the lighting in the Superdome’s upper section abruptly went dark, leaving only the field eerily lit. Power was lost throughout the press box, stadium concourses and the broadcast area. CBS Sports said it had access to only 11 of its 62 cameras during the outage, and the network also lost its audio from the main broadcast booth, forcing the television broadcast to go to Steve Tasker on the field.
The incident occurred at 7:36 p.m. local time and affected the entire Superdome as the exterior lighting went dark as well. Only minutes after Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returned the second half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, what appeared to be a full-on Ravens’ rout in progress was summarily halted.
Game officials moved the players to the sidelines. Within 10 minutes, an announcement inside the Superdome indicated that the lights would soon be restored and they were, albeit slowly. Players never left the field area, stretching and running in place to remain loose. The crowd of 71,024, for the most part, remained seated.
By 8:10 p.m. CT, play resumed after a 34-minute delay. The 49ers offense, powered by the versatility of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, exploded for 17 unanswered points in about a 10-minute span of role reversal to cut Baltimore’s lead to 28-23 at the end of the third quarter.
And while the Ravens held off San Francisco’s offensive challenge with a key fourth-down goal line stand, there’s no question the unprecedented power outage affected each team. Some felt it helped their cause.
For the most part, only Ravens players called it a distraction of varying degrees.
Ravens running back Ray Rice: “Honestly, for myself, I was a little stiff when I got back out there. It was about an hour because if you think … halftime was 30 minutes. Then we got out there and Jacoby took one back. Then, the power goes out and that’s another 30 minutes. So the offense is sitting there for an hour.
“Was it tough getting back out there? It was pretty tough but I’m glad we were able to finish the game and be world champions.”
Ravens fullback Vonta Leach: “It got us off-track. We weathered the storm and came out of there with the victory.”
Ravens safety Ed Reed: “The bad part was, we started talking about it. That was mentioned. It was like they were trying to kill our momentum. It was like, ‘There are two teams on this field!’ Once we started talking, it happened. We had to refocus, and we did.”
Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher: “It was crazy. We got cold on the sidelines. We started off cold in the second half. The defense came through for us and we got the win.”
Ravens safety Bernard Pollard: “That was crazy. That was my first. It slowed us down a little bit but at the same time we kept playing. They scored 17 straight points but we stayed together. We were upset, but we stayed together.”
Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta: “It seemed to come at the perfect time for the 49ers. We had a ton of momentum and the power went out just after we returned a kick. It felt like the power was out forever and it was hard to get going after that.
“We had just had a long halftime and it felt like our offense was off the field for hours between the second and third quarter.”
A sampling of those who said the outage didn’t affect them, or even helped:
Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell: “We went into a bit of a lull afterwards but I don’t think it had anything to do with the blackout, just the amount of execution … Honestly, that slowed things down just a little bit. It’s a first, right? We’re certainly glad that it turned out the way it did. That was just a slight interruption and we’ve had a lot of adversity all through this season, and that was just another blip on the radar screen.”
San Francisco tackle Joe Staley: “It was definitely unique. We had a similar situation in our stadium when we played last year against Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football. That was my first thought. I immediately thought, ‘We had a power outage against Pittsburgh last year and came out on fire. I was excited.
San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman: “I don’t think the lights had anything to do with (the outcome).”
San Francisco safety Donte Whitner: “No, not really. We barely even spoke to one another during that time. Everything that we needed to say was said in the locker room, and it’s a tough situation. Going through all of that, the lights going off, not playing well in the first half, being down, we understand at that point.
“Defense just started to click, the offense started to click and once that spark happened we knew it was going to happen. I just wish we could have finished the game.”
And several players said no game interruption was necessary despite the outage.
“We could have played with the lights as they were, but whatever man,” said Reed, a Louisiana native who grew up half an hour from New Orleans, adding that – lights or no lights — he would lead a second line parade back to the Ravens’ team hotel, the Hilton Riverside. “Football is a game of adjustments.”
On that note, give Nabisco, makers of the famous Oreo cookie, credit for quickly adjusting and capitalizing on what became a social media marketing dream.
As a worldwide viewing audience waited for word on the outage, the verified Twitter account for Oreo Cookies, @Oreo, posted an image of a lone picture of its signature product illuminated by a spotlight, with this slogan: “YOU CAN STILL DUNK IN THE DARK.”
An hour after the game ended, that message had been retweeted more than 13,650 times.
A joint statement issued on the lengthy outage by power provider Entergy and SMG, the management company of the Superdome, tried to explain what it called a “partial power loss.”
“Shortly after the beginning of the second half of the Super Bowl, a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” the statement read. “Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue.
“Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed. Entergy and SMG subsequently coordinated startup procedures, ensuring that full power was safely restored to the Superdome.”
Superdome spokesman Eric Eagan cut to the chase. "We sincerely apologize for the incident," he said.
So while the 49ers bemoaned their opportunity lost, Ravens cornerback Corey Graham figured the halftime show may have been too much for the Superdome to handle.
“I heard it was because of Beyonce, man,” Graham said. “She did so much out there, everything just went dark.”