Rest and relaxation. That’s the prescription Jim Harbaugh has for his players and coaching staff following a 34-31 defeat in Super Bowl XLVII.
Harbaugh was complimentary of his brother’s Baltimore Ravens team, but also shared praise for his other family, the San Francisco 49ers.
Ultimately, the 49ers came five yards short of winning the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl, but that doesn’t change the way Harbaugh feels about his 2012 team.
In his mind, the 49ers continued to show their true character in the face of adversity. A 22-point third-quarter deficit and a 34-minute power outage in that same period could not deter them from trying to win the Super Bowl.
“In some ways we’ll have regret there,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “It’s a tough loss. It’s a devastating loss to lose in that game, but when you’re down by 22 points and it’s 28-6, 90 percent of the teams will lose by 40.
“Our team clawed and competed almost all the way back and didn’t lose their faith, didn’t lose their will to compete and that’s something you couldn’t live with if that happened. So, forever proud of the way our guys do that. Somehow they found a way to overcome and then overcome again and overcome and that’s something you can live with.”
Another thing the 49ers could live with – the team became the first club in Super Bowl history to have a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a pair of 100-yard receivers in the same game.
Gore’s performance was the best single-game rushing performance by a 49ers running back in Super Bowl history. Davis also tied the NFL’s single-game receiving yardage by a tight end in Super Bowl history.
Even after all that production, Harbaugh wished someone had five more yards on their stat sheet.
That’s all that stood between the 49ers winning a sixth Super Bowl title.
“What my thoughts are now?” Harbaugh said rhetorically. “We came up five yards short. Certainly, knowing how it ended up, how it finished, we didn’t get the ball in, yeah, would’ve liked to have tried a different play call, a different scenario. That’s the way I always feel. If you do something and it doesn’t work, yeah, would’ve liked to have done something different, at least tried it. But you can’t. The would’ve, could’ve, should’ve is undefeated. That’s never failed.”
Harbaugh pointed out that the Ravens had been exceptional in red zone defense all season. When the 49ers quarterback recognized a cover-0 blitz and called for a fourth-down fade to Crabtree, Harbaugh said he had no problem with the decision.
“In the end, we felt our best way was to throw it in,” the 49ers coach explained.
The game didn’t go San Francisco’s way, but that doesn’t take away from the effort it took to reach New Orleans. When it comes to that, Harbaugh was most proud of his team.
Harbaugh wants nothing more than to keep his group together for 2013. That includes coaches and players.
“When a team has a lot of success, there could be those situations,” Harbaugh said when asked about the possibility of not having his full coaching staff back in 2013. “So, it’s not like the national debt where you can just keep printing money. They’re will be some big decisions by a lot of people, coaches, players, etc. But, one of our strengths is our togetherness. And there’s a brotherhood on this team. So, we’ll strive very hard to keep that going.”
In Harbaugh’s estimation, the biggest challenge the 49ers will face is fighting off competitors in the NFC.
“We’ll even have a bigger target, teams are going to, especially in the division, they’re going to draft, they’re going to study us and want to beat us,” Harbaugh said. “So, continuing to improve, that’s our formula.”
Before the 49ers can get to that point, Harbaugh wants his players and staff to rest and relax. It took a great deal of work to get to the Super Bowl and the 49ers coach recognizes the contributions from everyone involved in a second-consecutive NFC West-winning season.
“I think our players, our coaches, have spent everything that they have at this point,” Harbaugh said.
In addition, Harbaugh wants them to find an edge, a way to get “One percent faster” as he likes to say.
“Everybody’s going to want to have a lens to look at this season or look at this last game, or the final plays of the game,” Harbaugh said. “But our lens really has to be, and it’s the toughest one to look through, is ‘How can I improve?’ Accountable for our own edge and improvement in those areas.”
Harbaugh called the offseason “vitally critical.”
The team has the No. 31 overall draft pick and 13 other draft picks following.
The 49ers coach wouldn’t delve into specifics on potential draft targets, only that he’s coveting, “49ers.”
With those incoming players, via draft or free agency, the 49ers will look to enhance an already strong locker room, both in talent and character.
“It’s a strong character team and very talented,” Harbaugh said. “And they’re together. They are a team that’s very much a brotherhood here. And a joy to coach and work with.”