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49ers Fall 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII

Posted Feb 3, 2013

NEW ORLEANS – Trailing by as much as 22 points to the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers provided a fast-paced comeback where all that stood in the way of winning the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl was five yards.

The 49ers had the ball first and goal at the 7-yard line, trailing by five points with two minutes left in Super Bowl XLVII, but the team could not get into the end zone.

Michael Crabtree competed to catch a fourth-down touchdown on a fade route, but did not get to the back of the end zone to make the play. There was contact with a Ravens defensive back, but no call was made.

“At the end of the game, it went like it did,” a solemn Crabtree said on a night where he caught five passes for 109 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown that helped spark San Francisco’s comeback. “There was a lot of contact… It happened like that.

“It’s frustrating,” Crabtree added. “It’s the Super Bowl.”

The Ravens elected to run most of the remaining 1:46 off the clock before taking a safety with four seconds left in the game. Ted Ginn Jr. fielded Baltimore’s free-kick, but was tackled after a 31-yard return to end the comeback bid once and for all.

No team in Super Bowl history had trailed by more than seven points and won, the biggest deficit overcome in any Super Bowl was 10 points.

"We want to handle this with class and grace," Jim Harbaugh said. "Had several opportunities in the game. Didn't play our best game. Ravens made a lot of plays. Our guys battled back to get back in it. We competed and battled to win."

The 49ers were down as much as 22 to the Ravens, including a 15-point deficit at the half.

San Francisco, however, never gave in. Even after Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half and a 34-minute power outage at the Superdome, the 49ers kept their poise and rattled off several big touchdowns in a losing effort, the first in six appearances in the Super Bowl.

“I really wanted it for us,” defensive co-captain Patrick Willis said. “I wanted to bring it back to the Bay… We came up short. We were there and we came up short.”

The game itself featured several memorable plays and the bizarre power outage to start the second half. Only a small amount of light from the top of the Superdome made sure it wasn’t completely dark, but the delay seemed to effect the 49ers in a positive way.

The players had to stay loose during the break in action, something San Francisco experienced against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park last season. Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley felt like it might have been a good omen as the 49ers won that game with a power outage previously.

“It was unfortunate that we didn’t do it,” he said.

San Francisco’s offense picked up 23 first downs and out-gained the Ravens by 101 yards (468-367), but costly penalties and two turnovers in the first half contributed to Baltimore’s 21-6 halftime lead.

Even with an uncharacterisitc first-half performance, the 49ers remained positive.

“We knew if we had a couple of stops on defense, we’d get back in the game,” safety Donte Whitner said. “We have character in the locker room, we knew we’d make a run… They made one more play than we did (to win).”

San Francisco out-scored Baltimore 25-13 in the second half thanks to highlight-worthy throws from second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who finished the game with 302 passing yards.

"I think he was making good throws the entire game," Harbaugh said.

The big plays started right after the electricity scare.

After both teams swapped punts following the delay, Crabtree put the 49ers in the end zone with an impressive 31-yard touchdown reception. The fourth-year wideout absorbed a big hit from two Baltimore defenders and still made his way in the end zone.

The 49ers finally had reached the end zone and with 22:20 left to play, they trailed by 15 points.

San Francisco’s defense forced a three-and-out and the 49ers quickly reached the red zone with a 32-yard punt return by Ginn Jr. Frank Gore capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to make it a 28-20 game with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

The 49ers defense came with another momentous play soon after.

Ravens running back Ray Rice was stripped on the ensuing possession two plays after Gore’s score. Cornerback Tarell Brown popped the ball out and recovered it at Baltimore’s 24-yard line.

It led to a 34-yard David Akers field goal that was later matched by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, who made a 19-yard kick after San Francisco’s defense stiffened up inside the 1.

Kaepernick led the 49ers on a scoring drive immediately. He finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run, but was unable to find Randy Moss on 2-point conversion.

 “We were confident we were going to get it done,” Staley said. “Sometimes that’s how football goes sometimes. We tip our hats off to the Ravens, congratulations to them. They finished with more points than we did.”

The first-half miscues are a large part of the reason the 49ers were defeated.

"Things were working in the first half, we just didn't finish our drives," Kaepernick said. "We turned the ball over a couple od times and that was the difference in the game."

The Ravens scored first with a 13-yard Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who slipped past a pair of 49ers defenders to catch a skinny post from the right slot. The 6-play, 51-yard scoring drive took 2:29 off the clock.  Like that, San Francisco needed a response.

They did just that, marching 62 yards on a 12-play drive that led to a 36-yard Akers field goal.

Flacco, the game's MVP, continued to avoid the pass rush of 49ers linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks by making downfield throws on the run. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald recorded San Francisco’s first sack of the game, a 6-yard loss that forced a Ravens punt.

The 49ers moved into Ravens territory on their ensuing drive, but the game’s first turnover took place shortly after when LaMichael James was stripped while trying to extend a play at Baltimore’s 25-yard line. San Francisco had totaled 120 yards of offense by that point, but had only three points to show for it.

“Credit to the Ravens,” Brooks said postgame. “They won the game, but I think we beat ourselves. We made a lot of mistakes and just fell short.”

James’ turnover led to Baltimore points. Flacco completed his second of three touchdowns in the first half, a 1-yard pass off a play-action fake to tight end Dennis Pitta. The Ravens used a 10-play, 75-scoring drive to extend their lead to 14-3.

Then came Kaepernick’s first -down interception, the first ever thrown by a 49ers quarterback in a Super Bowl. A deep ball intended for Moss wound up in the waiting arms of safety Ed Reed who hauled in the high pass and returned it to San Francisco’s 38-yard line.

The Ravens looked to be adding to the lead with a 32-yard field goal attempt, but a fake was covered beautifully by Patrick Willis who kept his pursuit long enough to allow defensive help from safety Darcel McBath to tackle Tucker, Baltimore's kicker, 1-yard short of the first-down marker.

“I thought it was disrespectful,” Willis said of the fake. “Like they thought they could just score on our defense at any time.”

Chris Culliver made back-to-back pass breakups on the Ravens next possession, but on third down, Flacco launched a deep ball to Jones who got past the second-year cornerback’s coverage. Jones caught the ball falling to his back, but got up before he was touched down and raced inside the hashmarks away from Culliver to score a 56-yard touchdown.

It was the longest pass play allowed by the 49ers defense all season. As a result, the Ravens led 21-3.

In the two-minute drill, Kaepernick completed gains of 14 and 28 to tight end Delanie Walker, the second of which put the 49ers in the red zone.

Unable to convert a third down inside the 20, the 49ers settled for another field goal, a 27-yard make from Akers to make it a 21-6 halftime deficit.

Jones’ second touchdown, the 108-yard return out of the gates seemed like the 49ers would have a long day in the Superdome, but the team battled and showed true character.

“We will use this as fuel,” Whitner said. “It’s tough getting shoved off the field, watching the other team celebrate. We’ll be better from this. We’ll be back."

Vernon Davis agreed.

The 49ers tight end, who caught six passes for 104 yards, believes the 49ers are built for the future with Kaepernick and company.

“We have something to look forward to,” Davis said. “I think we’re building something special.”

It’s hard to see it after a loss in the Super Bowl, but the 49ers feel like they’ll be playing for more World Championships in the future. To them, it won’t take 18 years to get back to the big game like it did between their last Super Bowl victory.

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