NEW ORLEANS — The 49ers' ability to stay composed and play from a deficit proved to be a blessing two weeks ago. At the Superdome on Sunday, it may have been a curse.
Convinced they were on the verge of another epic comeback, the Niners fell 5 yards short of a touchdown, three points short of a victory and one win short of Super Bowl perfection, losing 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens after a last-minute drive stalled in Super Bowl XLVII.
The formula had worked to perfection in the NFC championship game, as the 49ers made up a 17-point gap and overturned the Falcons in Atlanta. But the Ravens proved more resilient. And while Jim Harbaugh was again able to rally his team, it was his older brother, John, who is a Super Bowl champion.
“The meeting with Jim in the middle (of the field) was probably the most difficult thing I have ever been associated with in my life,” John Harbaugh said.
Imagine how tough it was for Jim.
If just one of Colin Kaepernick's final three throws to Michael Crabtree had been complete, we'd probably be comparing these 49ers to the great San Francisco teams of all time. Their second-half rally was stunning. Down 28-6 after Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return, they flipped the switch and had the 49ers portion of the stadium going crazy.
It started with a 31-yard catch-and-run by Crabtree that left two Ravens on the ground and cut Baltimore's lead to 28-13. Then came a nifty punt return by Ted Ginn and a 6-yard touchdown run by Frank Gore. Moments later, cornerback Tarell Brown stripped the ball from Ray Rice and recovered the fumble, setting up a David Akers field goal that made it 28-23.
You could feel the tide turning.
Even when the Ravens fought back for a field goal, the Niners looked like the fresher team. Kaepernick engineered a lightning-fast drive and ended it with a 15-yard sprint around the left end, cutting the deficit to two points. Going for the tie, Kaepernick threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion attempt.