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, only to come roaring back and nearly stage the biggest rally in Super Bowl history.
As a glum mood descended upon 49ers fans in the Superdome, hard-core fans who had attended Super Bowl house parties and packed restaurants and sports bars throughout Northern California wrestled with their disappointment. There was one silver lining. It was quiet immediately after the game in San Francisco -- where there was triple the number of police on duty as authorities had been bracing for a potentially rowdy victory celebration.
"It was a good game," said Ryan Manning, 27, a San Francisco resident who was standing outside the emptying bars in North Beach, his eyes wet. "I may or may not have cried."
His girlfriend, Ketelyn Schlick, 26, draped an arm around him and added, "I'm here for emotional support. He's pretty die-hard."
It was no less painful for Oakland resident Illy Silva, who buried her face in her hands and pounded The Phoenix bar floor with her fist after the loss.
"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."
It's going to take some time to get over this one. The 49ers, playing in their first Super Bowl since 1995, had been undefeated in their five previous appearances. And this game pulled the fans' emotions in every direction possible.
The Bay Area was abuzz in the hours before the game with the expectation of another title. At Blush Japanese restaurant in San Jose, 50 years of friendship were gathered as four women watched the national anthem on a big-screen television from an outdoor table.
"I was 12 years old when I became a Niner fan," said Cathy Trujeque, 56, a retired auto worker for the old NUMMI plant in Fremont, taking credit for getting her friends to climb aboard the 49ers bandwagon.
In the end, the 49ers came up short. Down 34-29, Kaepernick's last pass hit the ground -- count Sandford among the San Francisco fans who thought a penalty flag should have been thrown on the play -- and it was basically over, although the 49ers got two more meaningless points on a safety in the game's final seconds.
Steve Breaux, 34, a San Francisco native and a doorman at The Phoenix bar, is superstitious. He woke up late for work today.
"When I woke up late, I knew something was going to go wrong," he said.
"We're still a championship team," said George Duran, 30, back in San Francisco. "Next year, we got this."
Reported by Mark Emmons in New Orleans, Tracey Kaplan and David DeBolt in San Francisco and Joe Rodriguez in San Jose. Contact Mark Emmons at email@example.com or 408-920-5745. Follow him at twitter.com/markedwinemmons.