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Comeback kid 49ers’ QB Colin Kaepernick falls short

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Updated: February 4, 2013 1:05AM

NEW ORLEANS — During his brilliant breakout season, Colin Kaepernick has rebounded coolly from deficits and mistakes, most notably in the postseason run to the Super Bowl.

He tossed a pick-six on the opening drive of the NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, then went off for 444 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 victory.

The 49ers trailed 17-0 at halftime against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. Then Kaepernick keyed a 28-24 comeback victory.

So could Kaepernick turn it on on the grandest stage of all?

“Colin was cool the entire game,” 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley said. “Colin was the same he’s been the entire season. He’s never shown any hints of being rattled.”

Kaepernick’s legend grows daily. A 2011 second-round pick who attempted five passes as a rookie, he dominated the Bears in his first NFL start, a 32-7 victory Nov. 19 on “Monday Night Football.” He went 7-2 down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs, earning victories over Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.

Trailing 28-6 in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick and his 49ers teammates regrouped after a 34-minute power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. They scored 17 unanswered points, with Kaepernick nearly matching his first-half output running and passing in the third quarter alone.

The Ravens knew Kaepernick was capable of comebacks.

“I watched them against the Falcons, coming back in the second half,” Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “We all were aware of that, so we wanted to stay away from that.”

But they couldn’t.

After taking a 34-29 lead on a 38-yard field goal, the Ravens provided the 49ers ample time to score the game-winning touchdown. After a touchback, the 49ers had 4:19 on the clock, not to mention two timeouts.

By the two-minute warning, Kaepernick and the 49ers faced second-and-goal at the Ravens’ 5.

Kaepernick misfired on a rollout, and he forced coach Jim Harbaugh to burn a timeout because the 49ers were about to be flagged for delay of game. On third down, Kaepernick’s pass to receiver Michael Crabtree had no chance for a touchdown. On fourth down, with the pocket collapsing quickly, Kaepernick floated a hopeless pass into the right corner of the end zone toward Crabtree.

Harbaugh begged for a defensive holding call against cornerback Jimmy Smith, but the officials didn’t agree.

Kaepernick said he audibled on the final play, based on a look the Ravens showed.

“I was just trying to give him a chance,” Kaepernick said of the last attempt to Crabtree.

Asked about finishing five yards short of perhaps winning the ­Super Bowl, he predictably said, “It was very frustrating.”

The 49ers turned it over on downs.

Quarterback Alex Smith, who was benched while sidelined with a concussion, still should be traded or released this offseason. Even in defeat, Kaepernick, who racked up 364 total yards, established himself among the league’s better quarterbacks and forcing defensive coordinators to spend the next few months figuring out ways to slow him and the 49ers’ offense down.

“Our future is very bright with Colin,” Staley said.

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