As Colin Kaepernick's end-zone pass to Michael Crabtree sailed incomplete, effectively sealing a gut-wrenching Super Bowl defeat, 49ers fan Jimmy Sandford could only put his hands over his head and stare blankly down at the Superdome field.
"Absolutely heartbreaking," said Sandford, who traveled from Tracy for the game. "Tough to take. I thought we were going to win it. We were so close."
Instead, a late 49ers' drive came up short, and the result was a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a bitter end to a thrilling, seesaw game that included a bizarre 34-minute delay to the country's biggest sporting event because of a power outage that plunged the dome into darkness.
"We had three shots to get five yards," added Los Altos' Soleio Cuervo of the game's deciding moment. He shook his head, still sitting in the upper deck as confetti fluttered down on the champion Ravens. "Five yards short."
From The Big Easy all the way to the Bay Area, 49ers fans everywhere were trying to process a painful loss where so much happened. They saw their team dig a 22-point hole, roar back and nearly stage the biggest comeback victory in Super Bowl history.
But inside the Superdome, the dominant color was Ravens purple. Baltimore fans vastly outnumbers the red-clad 49ers fans in the crowd of 71,024, and they made themselves heard by deliriously cheering as the Ravens jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead. Meanwhile, 49ers fans mostly stayed in their seats, watching in disbelief.
The deficit had grown to 28-6 when, less than two minutes into the second half, the power failure plunged the cavernous Superdome into darkness.
The general opinion among fans: Blame Beyonce. The pop singer's halftime performance had included a dazzling light shot. As fans did "the wave," Clayton resident Kevin Schmidt promised there was still plenty of time for a comeback.
"It's not over," Schmidt said. "No, no, no." Debbie Mercado, his sister-in-law, joked conspiratorially that maybe some 49ers fan -- wink, wink -- had something to do with the lights because her team needed to change the momentum.
"We might have had something to do with it," quipped Mercado, of Walnut Creek. "Jim (Harbaugh) needs more time to talk to the guys."
In fact, the 49ers came storming back.
"After the lights went out, the 49ers were lights out," Cuervo said.
He added that he figured the sibling rivalry between coaches Jim and John Harbaugh had something to do with the delay. "When the brothers were kids and playing Nintendo, I bet when one of them was losing, he just pulled the plug."
Here's a running blog of fan reaction in San Francisco and San Jose as the game unfolded and after the loss:
San Francisco: 10:27 p.m.
The San Francisco Police Department reports that about 25 people were arrested Sunday for public intoxication, but says that number is preliminary only. Final numbers will be released on Monday, the report says.
Mission District: 8:47 p.m.
The Mission District at Valencia and 16th streets, went quiet after the loss, except for the hum of news helicopters.
A fan with an air horn livened up the crowd, and chants of "Let's go 49ers," broke out briefly.
Still, the remained like any other night in the Mission.
Police took at least one man into custody, saying he was yelling profanities at people; he was held on suspicion of being drunk in public.
A crowd watching from a balcony across the street mocked police and they loaded the man into an empty sheriff's van.
North Beach: 8:29 p.m.
Candace Intinatelli, a 41-year-old hair stylist, came from Boston to watch the game and visit her sister. "The defense was not right on. That's why they friggin' lost."
North Beach: 8:17 p.m.
Jose Rivas, 26 and a biotech manager, said the loss "hurt his soul."
"We had a great season. But we were outcoached, outperformed and outclassed tonight. This super-great city lost a little today."
Mission District: 8:12 p.m.
"We're still a championship team," said George Duran, 30 of San Francisco, who was still in The Phoenix, but buttoned his jacket to cover his 49er jersey.
He and a group of friends ordered a round of shots.
"Next year, we got this."
San Jose, 8:05 p.m.
"I'm hurting. I'm really hurting right now,'' said San Jose resident Michael Silva at the Britannia Arms pub. Still, he predicted that the Niners would be back to the Super Bowl next year to begin a new 49er dynasty. "What they need is two cornerbacks and a kicker," he said.
On the sidewalk outside, fans were arguing about whether an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter should have ended in a holding call against Michael Crabtree.
"That definitely was holding," said Cindy Clark. "It's sad when that happens, but they (49ers) played a good game."
John Mercurio, 51, San Jose, agreed.
"That ball was perfectly thrown,'' he said. "He would have caught it."
North Beach: 8:04 p.m.
Matt Marceau, 30, who owns an e-commerce company, reacting to the 49ers loss, said: "It's unfortunate is what it is. They made too many mistakes. Kaepernick did not use all his talents."
North Beach: 7:57 pm.
"It was a good game," said Ryan Manning, 27, a San Francisco resident who works in high tech.
He was standing outside the now-emptying bars in North Beach with his girlfriend's arms wrapped around him.
"I may or may not have cried," said Manning, whose eyes were wet.
"I'm here for emotional support," said his girlfriend, Ketelyn Schlick, 26. He's pretty die-hard."
Mission District: 7:53 p.m.
After the loss, Illy Silva of Oakland buried her face in her hands and pounded the bar floor at Phoenix bar with her fist.
"I feel like I got shot in the head," she said. "I've never been shot in the head, but I guarantee you, this hurts."
North Beach: 7:50 p.m.
"We're proud of them, and we're disappointed," said San Francisco resident Susan Boyles
North Beach: 7:47 p.m.
Eerily quiet on a local street as confetti falls for the Ravens.
North Beach: 7:44 p.m.
With four seconds left, one lone guy is yelling, "One play, one play and stop the clock."
Mission District: 7:30 p.m.
Scooter Cecere, 22, grew up in Florida in a house that was a shrine to Joe Montana.
"They love him more than me," he said of his parents.
North Beach: 7:28 p.m.
A very different, older audience is watching the game at Caffe Trieste on Vallejo.
"This is the art crowd," said Mark Alvarez, an off-duty San Francisco police officer.
North Beach: 7:20 p.m.
Tupelo owner Teague Kernan, 39, praised the police, saying they were out in force tonight.
"The crowd has been great -- no idiots."
Mission District: 7:16 p.m.:
Steve Breaux, 34, a San Francisco native, thinks he dislocated his shoulder jumping into other fans inside The Phoenix bar.
"I'll go to the hospital later," he said.
A doorman at the bar, he is superstitious and did not wash his Patrick Willis jersey after the last playoff win. He also woke up late for work today.
"When I woke up late I knew something was going to go wrong," he said.
North Beach: 7:16 p.m.
At Tupelo, producer Ariel del Mundo, 40, held on to his fedora and jumped up and down when the team narrowed the gap to 31-29.
"I'm from here. I live in L.A. now, for 20 years. But I had to be here for this. We're back! We were 25 behind and now we're 2 behind!"
North Beach: 7:14 p.m.
With about 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, dentist Veronica Vasquez, 35, keeps muttering as she watches the game -- and a score of 31 to 23 with the Ravens ahead -- "There's still time, there's still time."
North Beach: 7 p.m.
The mood of fans in the area had improved hugely.
San Francisco native and lifelong 49ers fan Nick Majica, 25, at a bar called Grant & Green filled with mostly men, said he was then "100 percent sure" his team would win.
A security guard at Alcatraz, he said, "Our defense is great and Kaepernick is on fire."
North Beach: 6:30 p.m.
Joe Pinckney, 29, shook his head when asked about the score after halftime.
"If I stuck with them through a 2-14 season, I can stick with them through this," said the San Diego resident, who made good on his childhood promise to watch a 49er Super Bowl in San Francisco.
After the 49ers second touchdown, Gerald Santamaria, 36, grabbed the woman sitting next to him in the bar, dipped her back and kissed her. He said he just met her but they were bonding over their love for the 49ers.
"Long awaited, is how Arish Mission, 38, of San Francisco put it. "I predict the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history."
San Jose: 6:57 p.m.
At 61, Ernesto Ruby somehow was one of loudest, most exuberant yell kings at Britannia Arms as the Niners started to come back in the third quarter. He ran up and down the jam packed patio, urging fans to get up and high five each other.
"I've been a fan since I was 8," Ruby said.
He was in Boy's City when the organization took him to Kezar Stadium in San Francisco to see the 49ers battle the old Los Angeles Rams.
"I got to see John Brodie," Ruby said above the delirious Niner fans. "Do you remember John Brodie? That's when I became a football and Niner fan."
Ruby, a retired U.S. postman from San Jose, had three tables filled with his children and grandchildren.
"Too many to count right now," he said. "They're running all the place in here."
Yes, just like Dad.
San Jose: 6:08 p.m.
"It's annoying but I guess I would be less annoyed if we were winning, Cathy Trujeque, 56, said as she waiting with others for a temporary power outage at the Super Dome to be fixed. "Maybe this will slowdown the Ravens momentum."
North Beach: 5:59 p.m.
At Perry's restaurant and bar in Cow Hollow, Mark McClain was bracing to lose the $100 bet he made in favor of the 49ers as the team heading the second half of the Super Bowl.
But if the team rallies, the 30-year-old special education teacher, in the city with a group of about 30 friends, stands to make $2,000.
Every time the team fumbled, fans would head out onto the sidewalk with their heads hung.
"Losing a Super Bowl, we're not exactly used to it," McClain said, referring to the team's 5-0 Super Bowl record. "We're not giving up."
North Beach, San Francisco: 6:26 p.m.
Others gathered in the city to watch their team as they faced the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon were just happy to be in the middle of the excitement.
Megan Tedesco, a 33-year-old administrative assistant who lives in Sonoma, said the mood "was out of control happy" at Amante Bar and Restaurant in North Beach when the game began.
But by the third quarter, when the Niners were trailing badly, the mood was subdued.
"Right now, it doesn't look so happy. But it's not the end."
She was in North Beach in 1990 when the 49ers beat Denver 55-10.
"It was the happiest night of my life," she said.
North Beach: 6:38 p.m.
In the North Beach area of San Francisco, police officer Steve Bucbucy said he noticed a marked difference in the current cooperative attitude of the bar owners compared with the situation during the Giants' World Series victory last year.
"The crowds are a lot smaller than we expected, probably because of the score, which makes our job easier. " he said. "They learned a lot of lessons. They're keeping the rowdy drunks out."
North Beach, San Francisco: 5:46 p.m.
David Lee, 22, drove 2.5 hours to San Francisco from Fresno State, where he is a student, to watch the game.
"I came here because of the energy," he said. "I don't want to see it from anywhere else."
Watching from a bar called Maruengo on Union in Cow Hollow has been drinking Coor Lite and shots of JÃ¤germeister, Lee said the first half was a "glow buster."
Downtown San Jose: 4:30 p.m.
In downtown San Jose, at Blush Japanese restaurant and bar, decades of friendship gathered at an outdoor table with a standing heater and large TV screen overhead.
"I was 12-years-old when I became a Niner fan," said Cathy Trujeque, 56, a semi-retired auto worker from the old NUMMI plant in Fremont.
She pointed at one of her girlhood friends, Mystia Hernandez, who was sitting at the table and proudly took credit for being the first on the 49er bandwagon and bringing the others along.
Two other friends, Juanita Baca and Joni Policy, joined in.
However, Policy is a Raider fan, but has the good sense to leave her black and silver jersey at home.
Trujeque and Hernandez used to have season tickets but gave them up after 22 years.
"We got older, and it got expensive," Trujeque said. "The younger crowd is taking over. It was time but, yeah, I felt kinda sad."
Wearing her Niners jacket, Hernandez read a text message from her son at the game in New Orleans.
"He sent me pictures of his tickets -- 840 bucks!" Hernandez said.
Trujeque thought about attending the Super Bowl -- for only a moment as reality set in.
"Money, honey," she said. "Money."
Downtown San Jose: 4 p.m.
At Britannia Arms pub in downtown San Jose, every table was occupied during the game, but most of John Mercurio's clan was going to stand for the whole game anyway.
"They always stand up, even at home," said Mercurio, 51.
His son, Jeff Mercurio, and his lifelong friends have been Niner fans for as long as they've known each. Most are now in their 40s.
"Niners, all the way up, " said Michael Silva, a technical support engineer. "We got it from our fathers, our uncles."
After several hamburgers and beer bongs, the group was still cheering hard to halftime. They sensed a comeback.
"We're a second half team," Jeff Mercurio said. "We'll figure it out, yeah."
Win or lose, members of the group -- all clad in 49er jerseys, said they were thrilled the franchise had come back after an 18-year drought.
"We made it to the Super Bowl, " said Daniel Chavez. "That's big already."
Silva agreed. "It's the beginning of a new dynasty, regardless."