NEW ORLEANS -- Colin Kaepernick finished 5 yards short of a Joe Montana finish, and close doesn't count when you're measuring immortality.
Five yards short might as well be five million, because there's only one Montana and there are all kinds of guys who have fallen short.
Nobody knew that better than Kaepernick himself in the minutes after the 49ers' frenetic 34-31 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII.
He came to his assigned podium. He sat in the chair. He answered the questions.
And his entire mood was clear: The 49ers blew one, and the 49ers aren't supposed to do that in the Super Bowl. Any Super Bowl. Ever.
How long will this sting, Colin?
"For the rest of my life,"
He added a slight questioning tone at the end of that answer, as if he wasn't 100 percent sure about the eternal pain of this one but could guess.
Montana's drive to win Super Bowl XXIII is a piece of NFL and 49ers legend.
And so are Montana's three other titles and the one by Steve Young.
This is a forever-miss on Kaepernick's ledger; he's the first 49ers QB to lose a Super Bowl, and there's no getting away from it.
But then the 49ers' young quarterback tossed in a note for the future, and to signify that the anger of this defeat will drive him and this franchise to larger things.
What were you thinking after this game ended?
"That we'll be back," Kaepernick said.
Actually, Kaepernick could've one-upped Montana on Sunday -- he was rallying back from a 22-point deficit, something Montana never did (or had to do).
Kaepernick put up some nice stats (16 for 28 passing, 302 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 1 TD run, 62 rushing yards), and clearly was the 49ers' most dangerous offensive weapon for the third consecutive playoff game.
And Kaepernick rallied the 49ers back from that 28-6 deficit early in the third quarter with a flurry of scores and big plays, all coming after a 34-minute delay caused by a Superdome blackout.
"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," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said.
"Our future is very bright with Colin."
But Kaepernick, in his 10th NFL start, also threw a key interception on an overthrow of Randy Moss and looked generally shaky in the first half, which helped put the 49ers in that big hole.
His interception was the first one ever thrown by a 49ers QB in a Super Bowl -- and this is their sixth one.
"I feel like I made too many mistakes for us to win," Kaepernick said.
At the end, though, Kaepernick had a chance to tie it with a two-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter, and didn't (incomplete pass intended for Moss).
Then the 49ers offense got the ball back with 4:19 left, down 34-29, with everything set up for glory.
"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 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 and third downs he threw incomplete to Crabtree.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers had one run-option called for Kaepernick in this series. Kaepernick said it was in before the timeout, when Harbaugh called the TO as the play -clock wound down.
And on fourth down, Kaepernick said he audibled into the lob to Crabtree that fell incomplete after some bumping and grabbing by the Ravens' Jimmy Smith.
Harbaugh screamed for a penalty, and it looked like there was plenty enough contact to merit a flag. But none came.
Harbaugh said he felt Kaepernick played well in this game all the way through the final pass.
"I think he was making good throws the entire game," Harbaugh said. "In my opinion (the last) series should have continued (if a penalty had been called)."
Were Kaepernick's teammates surprised the QB didn't get a chance to run it at least once near the goal line?
"A little surprised," safety Donte Whitner said. "But it's coach's call. I guess they wanted to get the ball to Crabtree."
I asked Kaepernick if he was surprised he didn't get a run call, and he said the 49ers were just trying to find a play to get the TD.
This was Kaepernick's chance to be a Super Bowl hero -- almost certainly the MVP, and join the 49ers' QB gods.
Instead, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP, while Kaepernick slumped in his chair and answered questions about why he lost.
"I didn't (do enough)," Kaepernick said. "We lost. So obviously it wasn't enough."
He was 5 yards short -- one play, one moment, and that's what separates the NFL gods from everybody else.
Kaepernick almost crossed into Valhalla on Sunday, which can feel worse than never getting close at all. At least until you get the chance again, and then win.
The 49ers trailed 28-6 after Jacoby Jones opened the second half with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. On their next possession, the lights went out in the stadium. After the teams traded punts, the 49ers began their comeback.
7:20: Colin Kaepernick 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
Drive: 7 plays, 80 yards, 3:06
Score: Ravens 28-13
Ravens drive: 3 plays, -8 yards, 1:17
4:59: Frank Gore 6-yard TD run
Drive: 2 plays, 20 yards, 0:48
Score: Ravens 28-20
Ravens drive: Ray Rice fumbles on second play from scrimmage
3:10 David Akers 34-yard field goal
Drive: 4 plays, 8 yards, 1:00
Score: Ravens 28-23
Total time: 4:10