David Goldman, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — The Super Bowl turned into Blackout Sunday.
The biggest game of the year was halted for 34 minutes because of a power outage, plunging parts of the Superdome into darkness and leaving TV viewers with no football and no explanation why.
The Baltimore Ravens were leading the San Francisco 49ers 28-6 when most of the lights in the 73,000-seat building went out with 13:22 left in the third quarter Sunday night.
About two hours after the game, won by the Ravens in a 34-31 thriller, officials revealed that an "abnormality" in the power system triggered an automatic shutdown, forcing backup systems to kick in. But they weren't sure what caused the initial problem.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the power outage "an unfortunate moment in what has been an otherwise shining Super Bowl week for the city of New Orleans."
"In the coming days, I expect a full after-action report from all parties involved," he said.
Auxiliary power kept the playing field from going totally dark, but escalators stopped working, credit-card machines shut down, and the concourses were only illuminated by small banks of lights tied in to emergency service.
Most fans seemed to take the outage in stride, even starting up the wave to pass the time.
"So we had to spend 30 minutes in the dark? That was just more time for fans to refill their drinks," said Amanda Black of Columbus, Miss.
A joint statement from Entergy New Orleans, which provides power to the stadium, and Superdome operator SMG shed some light on the chain of events, which apparently started at the spot where Entergy feeds power into the stadium's lines. The problem occurred shortly after Beyonce put on a halftime show that featured extravagant lighting and video effects.
"A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system," the statement said. "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. ... Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality."
The FBI quickly ruled out terrorism, and the New Orleans Fire Department dismissed reports that a fire might have been the cause.
Auxiliary power kept the playing field and concourses from going totally dark.
On the CBS broadcast, play-by-play announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms went silent. Sideline reporter Steve Tasker announced to viewers a "click of the lights" as the problem. Later, the halftime crew anchored by host James Brown returned to fill the time with football analysis. Brown said a power surge caused the outage.
"We lost all power up here at the press box level," Nantz said after power was restored. He and Simms were off the air for most of the outage.
The failure occurred shortly after Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 108-yard touchdown, the longest play in Super Bowl history and pushing the Ravens to a commanding lead. But when play resumed, the momentum totally changed.
The Niners scored two straight touchdowns and nearly pulled off a game-winning drive in the closing minutes. They had first down inside the Ravens 10, but Baltimore kept them out of the end zone to preserve the victory.
The blackout, it turned out, became more of a footnote than a spark to what would have been the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
"It just took us longer to lose," moaned San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
No one could remember anything like this happening in the title game, but it wasn't unprecedented.
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