NEW ORLEANS -- A TV camera dogged Colin Kaepernick's every step as he entered the interview room.
His head hung, his shoulders slumped. Those closest to him understand how he accepts losses. Which is to say, not well.
"I thought I made too many mistakes to win," he said Sunday night after the San Francisco 49ers' 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
In the zero-sum world of the NFL, there is no nuance, only the final score. Kaepernick believes he lost the game for his team.
There is some evidence to support his tough self-grading. He threw an interception to Ed Reed, and for the first time this season, Kaepernick didn't answer with points for his team.
He'll no doubt regret the pass he airmailed over the head of Randy Moss, a two-point conversion attempt that would have drawn the 49ers even.
He'll especially guilt-trip into August on the game-deciding fourth-and-goal from the 5, a difficult and under-the- gun fade that missed Michael Crabtree.
We offer a different view: Kaepernick was the only reason the 49ers drew flopsweat on the Ravens' foreheads in the final moments. The Pitman High graduate fell only five yards shy of delivering the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
His team was free-falling 28-6 early in the third quarter when the lights went out and smoke alarms blared in the Superdome. The field was reduced to shadows and the 49ers faced a third-and-13 when the game resumed. The game wasn't just hopeless. It was almost time to circle the wagons and save the equipment.
And then the 49ers regrouped. From there, Kaepernick showed why he is one of the NFL's most exciting young players, a 25-year-old in only his 10th start who refused to let his team exit the building without a fight.
"Colin was cool the entire game. Colin was the same he's been the whole season," veteran tackle Joe Staley said. "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."
Remember, Super Bowl comebacks seldom happen and never in grand scale. The largest rally-from-behind for a win has been 10 points.
No, Kaepernick was wrong on this one. He sidestepped a boatload of major errors by the 49ers and nearly rescued his teammates.
He threw long and straight to Vernon Davis. He locked in on two deep passes that were dropped, one by Davis and one by Crabtree. He dashed
15 yards for a late touchdown and did his bicep-kissing "Kaepernicking," while his agent and NFL marketing officials heard cash registers ringing.
Kaepernick will guilt-trip into next season, however, because of the 49ers' collective failure inside the Baltimore 20-yard line. Quarterbacks take it upon themselves to finish drives, and the 49ers utterly failed here.
"Things were working in the first half," Kaepernick said in reference to the 49ers' scant two field goals before halftime. "We just didn't finish our drives. We turned the ball over a couple of times, and that was the difference in the game."
Regardless, Kaepernick can't take the fall over LaMichael James' fumble, Chris Culliver's nightmare of a game in the secondary and Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
"I think he (Kaepernick) was making good throws the entire game," coach Jim Harbaugh said. There was one (or two) that got a little high."
Don't expect Kaepernick to rationalize it out. He appeared inconsolable. He understands the rarity of such moments. Dan Marino threw the Miami Dolphins into the Super Bowl in his second year. Who knew his Hall of Fame career would never lead to another?
That said, Kaepernick will use this bitter disappointment as fuel. It's his M.O. His life is based on turning minuses into pluses.
The 49ers missed the ring by five yards, ground that can be made up.
Modesto Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports.