NEW ORLEANS — Colin Kaepernick finished five yards short of a Joe Montana finish, and close doesn't count when you're measuring immortality.
Nobody knew that better than Kaepernick himself in the minutes after the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl XLVII.
He came to his podium. He sat in the chair. He answered the questions. And his entire mood was clear: The 49ers blew one.
How long will this sting, Colin?
"For the rest of my life," Kaepernick said bitingly.
He added a slight questioning tone at the end of that answer, as if he wasn't quite sure about the eternal pain of this one, but could probably guess.
But then the 49ers' young quarterback tossed in a note for the future, and to signify that the anger and frustration of this 34-31 defeat to Baltimore will drive him and this franchise to larger things.
What are you thinking now?
"That we'll be back," Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick put up some nice stats (16 for 28, 302 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 1 TD run, 62 rushing yards).
And Kaepernick rallied the 49ers back from a 22-point deficit early in the third quarter with a flurry of scores-after a 34-minute delay caused by a Superdome blackout.
But he also threw a key interception and looked generally shaky in the first half, which helped put the 49ers in that big hole.
"I feel like I made too many mistakes for us to win," Kaepernick said.
At the end, the 49ers had the chance win this game and did not — Kaepernick threw three consecutive incompletions to Michael Crabtree on the 49ers' three final plays of the game.
It was an echo of Montana's epic drive in Super Bowl XXIII, when the 49ers got the ball back with 3:10 left, needing a TD to win, and Montana found John Taylor for the game-winner at the end.
This time, you expected the 49ers to find a way to let Kaepernick run it, at least once.
But on first-and-goal he handed it to LaMichael James; on second down he rolled right and threw Crabtree covered at the goal line.
After a timeout with the clock winding down, Kaepernick threw it in the short-flat to Crabtree, who had it knocked loose.
And on fourth down, Kaepernick said he audibled out of one play into a corner lob to Crabtree that fell incomplete after some bumping and grabbing in the end zone by Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith.
This was Kaepernick's chance to be a Super Bowl hero — almost certainly the MVP, and join the 49ers' QB gods.
He didn't. He drove the team down the field, but the 49ers didn't cash in, and until now, the 49ers always cashed in at the Super Bowl.
Instead, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP, not Kaepernick; and it was Flacco celebrating with the Lombardi Trophy, while Kaepernick slumped in his chair and answered questions about why he lost.
"On that last drive when we got the ball, we had time to go down and score a touchdown, we thought it was our game," Kaepernick said.
It was their game. It was first-and-goal after Frank Gore raced to the 7, with just over two minutes left.
And then it was over, the 49ers were done, and Kaepernick was left to deal with the aftermath.
It will be a long one. He said so, and you knew he meant it.