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New Orleans braces for fallout from blackout

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New Orleans braces for fallout from blackout

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A Super Bowl week that had gone so smoothly for the Big Easy suddenly turned bizarre when everyone was watching.

The lights went out on the biggest game of the year.

Just imagine the uproar if Baltimore had lost.

The Ravens were cruising along with a 28-6 lead Sunday night when, without warning, the power to the Superdome suddenly shut down early in the third quarter, plunging parts of the 38-year-old stadium into darkness and leaving TV viewers with no football and no explanation why.

For 34 minutes, the players tried to stay loose, the fans milled about in darkened corridors, and stadium officials scrambled to figure out what went wrong. The Ravens barely hung on for a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, needing a goal-line stand in the closing minutes to preserve the championship.

``It really hurt us,'' Baltimore fullback Vonta Leach said. ``We had lot of momentum.''

About two hours after the game, officials revealed that an ``abnormality'' in the power system triggered an automatic shutdown, forcing backup systems to kick in. But they weren't sure about the source of the problem.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the outage ``an unfortunate moment in what has been an otherwise shining Super Bowl week for the city of New Orleans.''

The outage provided a major glitch to what has largely been viewed as a smooth week for the city, which was hosting its first Super Bowl since 2002 and was eager to show off how it has been rebuilt since Hurricane Katrina.

But there is sure to be some fallout for the city and the Superdome - especially since New Orleans plans to bid for the title game in 2018, in conjunction with the 300th anniversary of its founding.

``In the coming days, I expect a full after-action report from all parties involved,'' Landrieu said.

Escalators stopped working and credit-card machines shut down, though auxiliary power kept the playing field and concourses from going totally dark.

``We sincerely apologize for the incident,'' Superdome spokesman Eric Eagan said.

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.

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.

``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.

Just last season, the Niners endured two power outages during a Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park.

``I didn't know what was going on,'' San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson said. ``I just tried to keep my legs warmed up.''

The Ravens felt the delay turned what looked like a blowout into a close game. Safety Ed Reed said some of his teammates began to fret as the delay dragged on.

``The bad part is we started talking about it,'' he said. ``Some of the guys were saying, `They're trying to kill our momentum.' I was like, `There's two teams on the field.' But once we started talking about it, it happened. We talked it up.''

A few of the Ravens threw footballs around to stay loose. Others took a seat on the bench, or sprawled out on the turf.

``I was a little stiff when I got back out there,'' Baltimore running back Ray Rice conceded. ``I'm just glad we were able to finish the game and be world champions.''

Finally, the lights came back on throughout the dome and the game resumed.

``Let's go!'' referee Jerome Boger barked to the teams.

Monique Richard, who is from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, had tickets in the Superdome's upper deck.

``My exact words on the way over here were, `I hope this goes off without a hitch,' because the city just looked so good, they were doing so well, the weather so good everything was kind of falling into place,'' she said. ``Hopefully, everybody will be understanding.''

New Orleans was once a regular in the Super Bowl rotation and hopes to regain that status. The Superdome has undergone $336 million in renovations since Katrina ripped its roof in 2005. Billions have been spent sprucing up downtown, the airport, French Quarter and other areas of the city in the past seven years.

Maybe they forgot one of the basics.

Joked Doug Cook, a Ravens fan from New Orleans: ``They didn't pay the light bill.''

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel and Associated Press writers Brian Schwaner and Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this story.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Three reasons why it made sense for Ravens to add LT Long

Three reasons why it made sense for Ravens to add LT Long

Jake Long was once a premier left tackle in the NFL, but he is projected to be Ronnie Stanley’s backup after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Ravens.

Here are three reasons why the Ravens felt they needed to sign Long, who will join the team for Thursday’s first full-team practice pending the outcome of his physical:

1. The Ravens needed insurance in case Stanley is injured or struggles.

Early reviews on Stanley have been good. But we’ll learn more about Stanley as he faces veterans on a consistent basis during training camp and the preseason.

The Ravens relied on James Hurst as their backup left tackle the past two seasons, but they wanted more security. Even after recent knee injuries, Long is simply more talented than Hurst.

2. Long can be a veteran mentor for Stanley.

As the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Long knows the pressure and expectations Stanley is dealing with. When Stanley has questions, Long will be a go-to guy.

3. With quarterback Joe Flacco returning from a serious knee injury, the Ravens can’t take chances protecting his blindside.

If Flacco suffers another season-ending injury, all the talent upgrades they made this offseason won’t matter.

There’s a chance Flacco’s mobility may be hindered, especially early in the season. Adding Long makes the Ravens feel more confident about keeping Flacco healthy.

RELATED: FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE TRAINING CAMP STARTS

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Five questions to ask as Ravens open training camp

Five questions to ask as Ravens open training camp

Veterans report to Ravens training camp Wednesday, with the first full-squad practice Thursday morning. Here are five questions to ask as the Ravens try to bounce back from a 5-11 season.

1. Does the influx of new talent make the Ravens playoff contenders again?

The Ravens were more aggressive early in free agency than usual, signing safety Eric Weddle, wide receiver Mike Wallace, and tight end Ben Watson. Then they loaded up on young talent with 11 draft picks, including left tackle Ronnie Stanley who is expected to start, linebacker Kamalei Correa who should see significant playing time, and running back Kenneth Dixon who has intriguing potential. The Ravens are a better football team, but I still question if they’re good enough to make the playoffs.  In order to make the postseason, the Ravens simply must get significant contributions from a host of new players.  

2. Is quarterback Joe Flacco ready to have a stellar season coming off knee surgery?

It’s a great sign that Flacco is ready for camp. His reps may be monitored early in camp and his preseason playing time figures to be limited. But when the regular season begins, the Ravens will need Flacco to have a solid season, maybe his best for the Ravens to make the playoffs. If Flacco has any lingering doubt about how his knee will hold up, those doubts need to be erased between now and Week 1.

3. How will key players on PUP perform once they return?

Four players currently on the PUP list are expected to play crucial roles – wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Smith is 37 years old, Suggs is 33, Dumervil is 32, and Perriman has yet to play an NFL down due to knee injuries. The Ravens’ playoff prospects are better if they can squeeze another quality year out of their injured vets, and if Perriman finally plays.

4. Who starts at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley?

That could be the biggest question mark in the starting lineup. The Ravens are deep at running back and tight end, so who starts doesn’t matter as much. But the release of veteran Daryl Smith, now with the Buccaneers, leaves a void at inside linebacker. Zach Orr has the inside track to start, Arthur Brown is getting one more chance, and Correa could be moved inside. But if none of those players rise up, general manager Ozzie Newsome could be forced to sign a veteran.

5. How will the new-look left side of the offensive line gel?

Stanley is a rookie left tackle. They’ll be a new starter at left guard, as John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, and perhaps rookie Alex Lewis battle to replace Kelechi Osemele, who was lost to the Raiders in free agency. It’s not surprising the Ravens felt they needed to sign veteran left tackle Jake Long as insurance.  To protect Flacco and run the ball effectively, the new-look left side of the offensive line must play well.

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Report: Boldin to sign with Lions

Report: Boldin to sign with Lions

Former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin is back for a 14th season.

Boldin, who turns 36 in October, will sign a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. In Detroit, Boldin will be reunited with Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who became the Ravens offensive coordinator during their run to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.

The Lions had a major void at wide receiver with All-Pro Calvin Johnson's retirement.

RELATED: RAVENS AGREE TO ONE-YEAR DEAL WITH OL JAKE LONG

A former second-round draft pick, Boldin spent seven seasons with the Cardinals before the Ravens traded for him in 2010. In three seasons with the Ravens, Boldin averaged 62 catches and 882 yards. He came up huge in the 2012 playoff run, with a team-best 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the 49ers.

After that Super Bowl run, though, Boldin was traded to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick. Boldin led the 49ers in catches and receiving yards in each of the past three years. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the 49ers in 2013 and 2014, leading many to question the Ravens decision to trade him. Last season, Boldin led the 49ers with 69 catches for 789 yards.

Boldin enters this season ranked 17th in NFL history with 13,195 receiving yards. One of the few players ahead of him is current Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr., who ranks 11th (13,392). Boldin last season became the 13th player in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions and now has 1,009. Smith, incidentally, needs 39 catches this season join Boldin in the 1,000-catch club.

MORE RAVENS: RETURNING PUNTS KEY FOR 3 RAVENS WR'S ON BUBBLE