NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Offensive linemen Alex Boone and Mike Iupati stood in one corner of a near-empty San Francisco locker room and pondered just how close they had come to winning the Super Bowl.
It quickly began to sink in, beneath the Superdome on Sunday night as the Baltimore Ravens celebrated, that their season had ended short of the goal.
One year, they almost reached the NFL's championship game. The next, they nearly won it.
The 49ers head into the offseason following a 34-31 Super Bowl loss knowing they were right there against the Ravens, and now move forward with the hope of keeping much of the team together and building to get back - and this time win it all.
One big question: What to do with backup quarterback Alex Smith?