NEW ORLEANS -- As Colin Kaepernick walked off the field -- head low, devastated -- something strange happened. A number of Baltimore Ravens stopped their celebrations to approach Kaepernick and hug him. They knew. They knew, in the end, the kid played a hell of a game.
It didn't start that way for Kaepernick. You could see early that Kaepernick's lights went out before the Superdome's. Nobody was home. The pressure had eaten a hole into his mind. It was deer antler spray in the headlights.
Kaepernick stumbled early and Baltimore jumped to a sizable lead. The 49ers shriveled like sausage under a hot lamp, and it looked like San Francisco's rep as a big-game franchise was about to take a serious hit, and most of it was because of Kaepernick's early woes.
Then the power went out. Then, in maybe the strangest Super Bowl ever, at least since Garo Yepremian's ill-fated pass attempt in Super Bowl VII some 40 years ago, everything changed in the blink of a megawatt. The stadium went Buffalo Wild Wings and Kaepernick just went wild.
The Blackout Bowl will be remembered for the more than 30-minute loss of power. Aside from the winning performances of Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones, there was the tale of two Colins: pre-blackout Kaepernick and Kaepernick after the lights came back on.
In the end, with a dim stadium acting as a power source, Kaepernick played one hell of a game. No, he wasn't Joe Montana. But who is? And Kaepernick acted with more class in defeat than his head coach, who refused to do a postgame interview. When Bill Belichick does that, he gets ripped. So should Jim Harbaugh.
The fact Kaepernick became re-energized is a great credit to him. If you don't think the power outage, maybe the strangest situation in championship sports history, had a significant effect on both teams, you're flat wrong.
"Oh my goodness, I mean, we had a ton of momentum at the time and had just returned a kickoff and had everything rolling," said Baltimore tight end Dennis Pitta. "Then the power goes out and we're waiting for what felt like an hour. We lost momentum and, credit to them, they came storming back and played tremendous."
John Harbaugh said, "They handled that better than we did. The momentum turned."
Ray Rice said it was tough for the Ravens post-outage. San Francisco's Harbaugh said he didn't know what percentage the outage affected the 49ers but there's no question it hampered the 49ers less.
The Ravens looked more discombobulated. With the lights down, the Ravens' Harbaugh got into a screaming match with a league official over what was happening with the communication system between the sideline and coaches in the press box.
The 49ers' Harbaugh was throwing passes with his players on the sideline. He looked relaxed. The entire 49ers team did. It might have been because, as the 49ers' Joe Staley said, when San Francisco played Pittsburgh last season on a Monday night, the power went out in that game, too. And, as in the Super Bowl this year, the 49ers were re-energized after the lights went out.
Kaepernick looked extremely relaxed. The power loss clearly ended the jitters. He became electrified.
Before the blackout, in the first half, Kaepernick was 8 of 13 for 139 yards, was sacked twice and threw an interception. He had a 65.9 rating.
In the second half, Kaepernick threw just three incompletions and added 20 completions. He had a 91.7 rating for the game and 62 total yards rushing -- two shy of Steve McNair's Super Bowl rushing record. Kaepernick's 15-yard rushing score was the longest for a QB in Super Bowl history.
That's not too shabby, considering how he started.
"He just did Colin," 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone said. "He kept his swag and did a good job of that."
The 31 points scored by the 49ers matched the highest total by a losing team in Super Bowl history. He was so close to winning, and might have done it had the play-calling on San Francisco's final drive been better. The 49ers had four plays inside Baltimore's 7 and threw each time, three of those passing plays coming from the shotgun.
"Well, we really thought it was going to be some kind of quarterback run down in there," Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
Exactly. Duh. Why in the hell don't you use Kaepernick as a runner on at least some of those plays? His dual attack ability is what makes him so dangerous.
Kaepernick will always wonder what might have been. What would have happened had he been less nervous? What would have occurred had Kaepernick been the Kaepernick that stunned the entire league and showed no traces of nervousness? If he was the Kaepernick that never sweated, like in the NFC title game?
He’ll learn from this because he's good, and if the power goes out again in next year's Super Bowl -- watch out.