NEW ORLEANS — Colin Kaepernick got tripped up and tossed down, then still nearly led the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever in his 10th career NFL start.
Rarely rattled on an impressive path to the Super Bowl, San Francisco's second-year quarterback finally showed some inexperience on football's big stage. Not to mention some guts.
After a remarkable postseason run by the tattooed play-caller, the Ravens exposed plenty of flaws in handing Kaepernick and Co. a 34-31 loss Sunday despite the 49ers' second-half rally.
"I think he was making good throws the entire game,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "There was one that was a little high (a second-quarter interception by Ravens safety Ed Reed). I think he was fine.''
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 San Francisco's starter.
The Niners made costly mistakes on both sides of the ball and on special teams early, and fell behind 28-6. But Kaepernick regrouped during a 34-minute delay early in the third quarter because of a power outage, finding his groove and turning the Super Bowl into a wild finish. And he gave more credibility to the pistol offense designed by his old college coach that is so well suited for the NFL's young, mobile quarterbacks.
Kaepernick directed four second-half scoring drives, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree and running 15 yards for a TD. But the 49ers missed the two-point conversion that would have tied the score with less than 10 minutes left.
Kaepernick did a little bit of everything in San Francisco's final drive, when the 49ers got the ball back at their 20-yard line with 4:19 left 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 straight incompletions intended for Crabtree. His offbalance throw under pressure on fourth down sailed through the end zone. Kaepernick lowered his head slightly and walked slowly off the field.
Kaepernick wound up 16-for-28 for 302 yards with three sacks and an interception for a 91.7 passer rating.
"Colin was cool the entire game,'' 49ers offensive 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 hint of being uncomfortable on the football field, and he showed that exact kind of character today. Our future is very bright with Colin.''