How did the 49ers manage to lose?

If you knew only these two facts about the Super Bowl—the 49ers averaged 7.8 yards per play and Frank Gore led all players with 110 rushing yards—you could have reasonably concluded that the Niners won and won big. Here’s why:

  • Only three other teams averaged at least 7.5 yards per play in an NFL or AFL title game (Super Bowl or otherwise). All won the game by more than 30 points: the 1957 Lions, 59-14 over the Browns (7.7 yards per play); 1963 Chargers, 51-10 over the Patriots (10.2 yards per play); and 1987 Redskins, 42-10 over the Broncos (8.4 yards per play).
  • Frank Gore was the 20th player to gain at least 100 rushing yards in a Super Bowl. Only three others did so for the losing team; but in each of those three cases, a player on the winning team also reached the 100-yard rushing mark.  That was not the case with Gore and the Ravens.
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49ers, Ravens each in Super Bowl after falling one game short last season

Super Bowl XLVII will be the second Super Bowl in which each team had lost a conference title game the previous season.  The only other Super Bowl in which each team had lost in the semifinals the previous year was Super Bowl XXX, in which Dallas defeated Pittsburgh after the 1995 season.  (Dallas had lost to San Francisco and Pittsburgh to San Diego in the conference title games after the 1994 season.) Elias Says on

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