Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 10:24 AM
NEW ORLEANS — The San Francisco 49ers careened off Bourbon Street on Sunday, took a wrong turn and wound up at Heartbreak Hotel.
The Big Easy came down hard on the boys from the bay.
Ravens 34, 49ers 31.
“It’s kind of tough, man, to get this far and let everything slip away,” said 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks. “Wasn’t our day, man.”
The 49ers’ glorious dream of adding one last frosty can to the plastic ring, giving the 49ers’ a golden six-pack of Super Bowl victories in six tries, died with Baltimore’s goal-line stand.
Jim Harbaugh screamed for a holding penalty on the 49ers’ last-gasp play, and nobody throws a better tantrum, but it was a night when a lot of stuff didn’t get called, for both teams.
In the end, in this town, you must accept your fate. Sometimes the voodoo works for you; sometimes it bites you in the butt.
This will be a hard one for the 49ers and their fans to shake off. For the third straight playoff game, the 49ers staged a furious comeback, and it would have been truly epic, but it didn’t quite happen.
Now, with humble hearts and king-hell hangovers, the 49ers stagger home without a trophy.
After the game, an army of joyous Joe Flaccos and rowdy Ray Lewises -- middle-aged Baltimore fans wearing their heroes’ jerseys -- descended on the French Quarter with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
“I got two tickets to paradise!” Ravens safety Ed Reed warbled into his postgame interview mike. He was no Eddie Money, but Ed was money.
Meanwhile, unhappy Colin Kaepernicks and disgruntled Frank Gores -- 49ers faithful in their team gear -- slunk off to eat crow, or gobble leftover jive turkey.
For the 49ers, there simply was no overcoming a disastrous first half. Their first half was, in terms of effort and efficiency, FEMA-like. The 49ers were a streetcar named perspire.
They clawed back, as they had in previous playoff games against the Packers (down 7-0) and Falcons (down 17-0). On Sunday, they spotted the Ravens a 28-6 lead early in the second half. Came roaring back. Lost.
How tragic is it?
Well, we hereby interrupt the weeping and wailing of 49ers faithful, and the profound gloom of the players, with a reminder that this was one sensational season. If anyone feels cheated, they might be missing the point.
Something special has been happening with the San Francisco professional football team. Sunday was a Mount Everest of a speed bump, but the 49ers are for real. Have been since Jim Harbaugh arrived before last season, and show no sign that will change anytime soon.
Right now, it’s a time for players and fans to decide whether to celebrate what was in many ways a miraculous return to the glory of old, and a near-miraculous comeback, or to mourn a squandered platinum opportunity to stake a claim as the NFL’s greatest team and franchise.
Take your time. Break up into discussion groups. You’ve got a few months to stew over this one. BYO Pepto-Bismol.
It was a crusher. The 49ers had the sport’s hottest young coach in Harbaugh, and coolest new superstar in Kaepernick, but both of them had a bad-hair half. Harbaugh was outcoached by his older bro, John, and Kaepernick was schooled by the boring old quarterback on the other team, a graying dude named Joe.
Yes, it stings that there is now another Super Joe, another Joe Cool. Joe Flacco didn’t erase the memory of Joe Montana and his Super Bowl exploits, but the Ravens’ quarterback was Montana-esque in the clutch.
He got better protection than the pope or Paul McCartney, and Flacco was on his superb game, picking apart the 49ers in the first half like a vulture picks apart roadkill.
He was lights-out, until the 34-minute second-half power failure that left the Superdome bathed in romantic mood lighting. I’m betting the power blow will be traced back to San Francisco’s PG&E, who turned the lights out in a game last season at “Candlelight Park.”
For power, the Superdome folks could have used the 49ers’ defense, which was getting lit up.
Kaepernick struggled early, but you can’t call it a choke. He completed a 20-yard laser on the first scrimmage play of the game, only to lose it on a penalty. The Turlock Tornado wasn’t a winner, but he is a winner.
Not since Joe Namath guaranteed that his Jets would upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III has a young quarterback brought this level of buzz to a Super Bowl. Namath delivered. Kaepernick, in just his 10th NFL start, did, too ... until the end.
The big moment did not get the best of Kaepernick. A long pass on the final drive might have made the difference, but Vernon Davis couldn’t handle Kaepernick’s on-the-money bomb.
Mistakes were made. The best team won. And now it’s time to take stock.
Since Jed York hired Harbaugh, the team has been a brand-new and shiny deal. The 49ers missed the Super Bowl by one game last season, and in two seasons they are 27-9-1, including three ultra-dramatic playoff wins. Sunday’s sobering defeat notwithstanding, there is nothing to indicate that this team isn’t for real, that it won’t continue to be a force.
Step back and look at it as you would view an oil painting, ignoring minor flaws, and ask yourself:
With the momentary exception of the Baltimore Ravens, who’s got it better than us? Seriously.
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