EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Nearly 81,000 people sat in total darkness for a few seconds at the New Meadowlands Stadium during a power outage that brought Sunday's game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants to a halt.
The $1.6 billion building that opened last spring went completely dark for a brief time early in the third quarter. Backup lights almost immediately came on, but play was held up by two brownouts for a total of 11 minutes in the Cowboys' 33-20 victory over the Giants.
"It was kind of bizarre," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "I've never been part of anything like it and hopefully I never will again."
Mark Lamping, the chief operating officer of the stadium, estimated the complete blackout time as five to six seconds. A moment after substantial power was restored, fans and media were instructed to remain in their seats for further instructions.
"I don't think there is any good news," Lamping said. "The positive is that the emergency preparedness and protocol worked exactly the way it was supposed to work. The systems worked as designed."
Several banks of lights went out atop the stadium at 6 p.m. EST, just 10 seconds into the third period. The game was delayed for about three minutes. When play resumed, not all of those lights had been restored.
On the second play after the stoppage, Dallas running back Felix Jones went 71 yards with a screen pass for a touchdown.
"I think we probably needed it at that point, the way they were going," New York defensive end Osi Umenyiora said.
The Giants ran five plays on the ensuing series, and then the entire arena went dark for five or six seconds. Backup lights came on and New York's offense and Dallas' defense milled around on the field while the officiating crew discussed what to do.
"When this situation happened tonight we were in constant communication with the (NFL) command center in New York," said officiating supervisor Art McNally, a retired referee. "And at no time did it reach a point where we said we're going to have to postpone this game. We were in constant communication with the people in the stadium, too. The communication was excellent."
There wasn't enough light to resume play immediately after the short blackout – referee Bill Leavy assured both coaches the game would not start again without sufficient lighting – and there was an 8-minute delay before the Giants ran another play.
"The second time that Bill came over to discuss it, at that point in time it was up to us," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Jason (Garrett, the Cowboys' coach) had mentioned he thought it was light enough to play. I had some reservations. Then the league came in to say you have to have better lighting than this."
There also was a fight in the stands during the delay.
"I just sat on the bench and was trying to be still like my mom was always telling me when there was thunder and lightning," Tuck joked.
Both the Cowboys and Giants scored touchdowns on their series that were interrupted by the power outages.
"Power was lost when one of the two feeders to the stadium experienced a power interruption," Lamping explained in a statement. "A second power interruption occurred to the second feeder, causing a full outage. Functionality to the original feeder was restored.
"We are currently investigating the original cause of the interruption."
The stadium has had some previous issues with power and false alarms. During a preseason exhibition game between the two tenants, the Giants and Jets, fire alarms went off in the stadium. There also were some power outages in the press box.
"Obviously a fluky situation," Lamping said of Sunday night's incidents. "We're going to have to determine what it was. We're not just going to say something happened tonight and it won't happen again. We have to make sure that (the power company) and the sports authority, all of us dig in and diagnose what happened, and if any corrective actions are needed we take them so this won't happen again."
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