NEW ORLEANS -- The San Francisco 49ers had their chances in Super Bowl XLVII. They had four consecutive shots from the Baltimore 7-yard line or closer in the final minutes. They couldn't quite finish what would have been the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick passed for 302 yards and a touchdown. He ran for another score. He played well for much of the game.
Super Bowl XLVII Total QBR
Kaepernick's score would have been an impressive 74.5 without adjusting for game situations, notably time and score, according to Albert Larcada of ESPN Stats & Information.
"However, QBR does adjust for game situation and Kaepernick did not come through in the highest leverage situations," Larcada said.
Kaepernick's QBR score had climbed to 78.6 when the 49ers faced first-and-goal in the final three minutes. The quarterback then threw incomplete three times following a 2-yard run on first down. QBR assumes an average level of culpability for the quarterback in such a situation without mitigating variables such as dropped passes.
"Since these plays were the most important plays of the game (and really the entire season), Kaepernick’s QBR fell to his final number of 46.1," Larcada said. "If Kaepernick would have scored a touchdown on any of those plays, it is a safe bet to assume his QBR would have been very close to Flacco’s."
Kaepernick had posted an NFL-high 94.1 QBR score in the playoffs before Sunday. His QBR score through nine career starts (84.0) was the NFL's highest since 2008, the earliest year for which charting data is available.
The drop from nearly 80 to 46.1 over three plays seems harsh, in my view.
However, teams are expected to score a high percentage of the time when they have first-and-goal inside the 10-yard line. The fact that Kaepernick threw three times in that situation without completing one pass came at great cost with the score so close (34-29) and so little time remaining.