NEW ORLEANS – The confetti on the turf of the Superdome was purple and gold instead of red and gold, but the 49ers once against showed their grit in the 34-31 loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Trailing 28-6 midway through the third quarter, San Francisco never quit. After weathering the big deficit and a bizarre 30-minute power outage at the Superdome, the 49ers pulled within striking distance of the Ravens before ultimately falling five yards short of the ultimate goal.
With the score at 34-29 and the team needing a touchdown, Colin Kaepernick guided the team to the Baltimore 5-yard line with less than two minutes to go. But three straight incompletions spelled defeat for the 49ers, as the Ravens ultimately sacrificed a punting attempt for a safety, and Ted Ginn Jr. was tackled at midfield on the ensuing kick as time expired.
"It's a tough situation to be in because we expected ourselves to win, but we couldn't pull it off," Davis said. "Like I told the guys, I'm extremely proud of all that we've done up to this point. We've got to look at this as a blessing because we didn't have to be here, but we made it. We've always got next year; we've got next season. We might as well look forward to next season, keep our hopes high and continue to climb."
All season long, the 49ers bounced back through adversity, like when they climbed out of a 17-0 hole in the NFC Championship at Atlanta to reach the Super Bowl. Even though the 49ers fell short of the ultimate goal, the would-be comeback effort was impressive nonetheless.
Davis played a big role in the resurgent 49ers, whose offense came to life in the second half. The explosive tight end tied a Super Bowl record with 104 yards receiving, fighting off an early elbow injury to pace the offense.
Davis wasn't the only 100-yard receiver on the day. Michael Crabtree had a robust 109-yard effort that included a tough 31-yard touchdown when he bounced off two defenders and sprinted into the end zone.
The mood was understandably silent and somber in the locker room after the game and a short speech from Coach Jim Harbaugh.
"He really didn't have a message, then," Crabtree said. "We lose and everyone's down. Guys lose it. Guys go missing. It is what it is. A loss is a loss. There's not too much you can listen to after a Super Bowl loss. It was a good job. It was good to just be here. But at the end of the day, I just feel so bad, man, that we lost. I'm trying to take it right now."
Crabtree's touchdown came with 7:20 left in the third quarter and cut the team's deficit to 28-13, sparking the offense and energizing the loud traveling contingent of 49ers Faithful.
Davis and Crabtree weren't the only 49ers with big-time individual contributions on the day. Frank Gore showed why he's one of the league's best backs, rising to the occasion and rushing 19 times for 110 yards.
His 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was certainly notable, as he ran right past the Ravens defense into the end zone untouched on a well-designed counter play that featured a mauling block by Delanie Walker. But it wasn't his most hair-raising run of the night. That play came in the fourth-quarter drive that ended in disappointment, when he broke down the left sideline for 33 yards and lowered his shoulder before being knocked out at the 7-yard line.
Ultimately, it was all for naught.
"(I'm) just happy the way we kept fighting," Gore said after setting a new franchise rushing record for a Super Bowl. "Any other team probably would've just laid down, probably would've just laid down, and we let people know what type of guys we've got in the locker room, type of warriors we are. It just didn't happen for us today."
The 49ers also became the first team in Super Bowl history to feature a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in the same game. That's because Kaepernick finished 16 of 28 for 302 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
He also recorded the longest quarterback run in Super Bowl history, when he kept the ball and sprinted down the left sideline for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 31-29 with 9:57 left in the game. But the team failed to convert the two-point conversion to tie up the game, and never got closer the rest of the game.
For a second-year player making just his 10th NFL start, Kaepernick showed poise beyond his years.
"I think that last drive when we got the ball and had time to go down and score a touchdown, we thought it was our game," Kaepernick said. "We'll be back."