Donte Whitner: Niners will be champs

Donte Whitner has no doubt that the San Francisco 49ers are ready to become Super Bowl champions.

"We take steps every year," Whitner told CSNBayArea.com. "Last year we made it to the NFC Championship Game with no expectations. This year we made it to the Super Bowl and 5 yards from the championship. Next year we gonna win this thing. Nobody cares about second place."

Whitner, a key member of the San Francisco secondary, made his proclamation days after the 49ers nearly overcame a 22-point second-half deficit before enduring a heartbreaking 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

San Francisco drove to the Baltimore 5-yard line with under two minutes remaining with a chance to take the lead, but Colin Kaepernick's pass on fourth down fell incomplete, a play in which coach Jim Harbaugh said holding or interference should've been called.

Coming close has been the norm for the Niners, who suffered a 20-17 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game the previous season.

Despite Whitner's prediction, getting back to the Super Bowl is anything but a certainity for the Niners, who feature a young roster. No team has returned to the Super Bowl the next season since the New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.