NEW ORLEANS – Colin Kaepernick got tripped up and tossed down, then still nearly led the greatest Super Bowl comeback in just his 10th career NFL start.
Rarely rattled on an impressive path to the Super Bowl, San Francisco’s second-year quarterback finally looked inexperienced on football’s big stage.
After a remarkable postseason run — with those speedy runs by the tattooed play-caller – the Baltimore Ravens exposed plenty of flaws in handing Kaepernick and Co. a 34-31 loss Sunday despite San Francisco’s second-half rally.
No team has come from more than 10 points down to win a Super Bowl, and Kaepernick had a chance to make it happen less than three months after becoming the 49ers’ starter.
He regrouped during a 34-minute blackout in the third quarter, finding his groove and turning the Super Bowl into a wild game down the stretch.
Kaepernick directed four second-half scoring drives, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree and also running 15 yards for a TD. But the 49ers missed a two-point conversion that would have tied the game with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Crabtree didn’t get much help in a mistake-filled first half by San Francisco (13-5-1), which failed to stop Joe Flacco and Baltimore to deliver the franchise’s sixth championship that would have matched the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most.
The 49ers’ perfect Super Bowl record? That’s over. They lost for the first time in the championship game.
Playing for a title for the first time since Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice helped rout San Diego 18 years ago, coach Jim Harbaugh’s Niners made costly mistakes on both sides of the ball early.
Kaepernick did a little bit of everything in San Francisco’s final drive, when the 49ers got the ball at their own 20 with 4:19 remaining and trailing 34-29. He ran for 8 yards, hit Crabtree on a 24-yard gain and handed off to Frank Gore for a 33-yard run to the Baltimore 7.
But with three chances from the 5, Kaepernick threw three incomplete passes. His off-balance throw under pressure on fourth down sailed through the end zone. Kaepernick lowered his head and walked slowly off the field.
No comeback this time in the Big Easy.
Kaepernick threw for 302 yards, completing 16 of his 28 passes. He was sacked three times and threw an interception for a 91.7 passer rating in his Super Bowl debut. The interception was the first by the 49ers in six Super Bowls.
The 25-year-old completed eight of 13 first-half passes, was sacked twice and threw an interception as San Francisco fell behind, 21-6.