Matt & Mindi: The final four plays cost 49ers the game
Colin Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 passes for 302 yards. He also threw a touchdown, an interception, and ran for 62 yards and a touchdown. (AP)
NEW ORLEANS -- Colin Kaepernick's bid to become the new Captain Comeback came up five yards short.
Kaepernick, making just his 10th NFL start, helped rally the 49ers from a 22-point third-quarter deficit. But four high throws are what he'll remember most from the 49ers' 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday at the Superdome.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 passes for 302 yards -- his first 300-yard passing game as a professional -- with one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts.
"I feel like I made too many mistakes for us to win," Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick's 15-yard touchdown run -- the longest in Super Bowl history from a quarterback -- pulled the 49ers to within two points, 31-29, with 9:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. And it set up a two-point conversion try that failed when Kaepernick overthrew Randy Moss.
Down 34-29 with less than two minutes remaining, the 49ers drove 75 yards on six plays and were in position for the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
"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.
But Kaepernick threw three consecutive incomplete passes after the 49ers had a second-and-goal from the 5-yard line. On fourth down, Kaepernick overthrew Michael Crabtree in the end zone. Coach Jim Harbaugh, who earned the nickname "Captain Comeback" as a Pro Bowl quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts, complained that defensive holding should've been called on Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Kaepernick said the final pass -- a fade to Crabtree -- was not the play call he delivered in the huddle. He said he changed the play at the line of scrimmage when he anticipated a blitz.
"That wasn't the original option," Kaepernick said. "It's something I audibled to at the line based on the look they gave us. . . It was cover-zero. I was just trying to give him (Crabtree) a chance."
"I mean, it felt like there was a lot of contact," Crabtree said. "I don't even want to say this, but if the ball had been a little lower, giving me a chance to make a play, I'm sure they would've called it (the penalty)."
When asked about Kaepernick's performance, Harbaugh said, "I think he was making some good throws the entire game. There was one that got a little high. Again, in my opinion, that series should have continued."
In the first quarter, Kaepernick had Crabtree open in the end zone on a second-and-goal play from the Ravens' 8-yard line but overshot his intended target. The 49ers settled for a field goal. In the second quarter, he had a pass intended for Moss sail on him. Moss did not make any attempt, and Ed Reed intercepted the pass and returned it six yards to the 49ers' 38. Although that Ravens possession ended with a failed fake field goal, Baltimore scored a touchdown after a change of possession on MVP Joe Flacco's 56-yard pass to Jacoby Jones.
"Things weren't working in the first half," Kaepernick said. "We just didn't finish our drives. We turned the ball over a couple times. That was the difference in the game."
Rookie running back LaMichael James committed a crucial turnover with a turnover after the 49ers had driven to the Ravens' 24-yard line. The 49ers trailed 7-3 at the time, and Baltimore marched down the field for a 14-3 lead.
The 49ers converted just two of nine (22 percent) on third downs. Moreover, San Francisco managed touchdowns on just two of their six trips inside the red zone. David Akers kicked three field goals, and the final drive stalled at the five.
"We stopped ourselves," Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick showed an ability to play from behind in the playoffs. He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his second pass attempt against the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers came back for a 45-31 victory.
And on Sunday, the 49ers were behind 28-6 after the first 11 seconds of the third quarter. Kaepernick made enough plays to get the 49ers back in position to win. But he did not make all the plays the 49ers needed.
Still, there is reason for the organization to be excited about their young quarterback.
"Colin was cool the entire game," left tackle Joe Staley said. "Colin was the same he's been the whole entire season. He's never shown any hints of being rattled, any hints of being uncomfortable on the football field. He showed that exact character today.
"Our future is very bright with Colin."