Niners hoping for 'Super' rematch with Ravens

BALTIMORE -- Less than an hour after a disappointing loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers made it clear they were hoping to do it all over again -- sooner rather than later.

The Ravens and 49ers slugged it out in the rain at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, with the heavyweight fight going a full 12 rounds before Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker was able to land the final blow and give the Ravens a 20-17 decision.

In the Niners' locker room, there was plenty of frustration over the missed opportunities to knock off the red-hot Ravens, but there was just as much optimism that a rematch could be in the offing.

"I was really proud of the team," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I thought they played extremely hard, all three phases. (We) definitely played against a real good team, but I was really happy with our guys and how they played. We had every chance to win that game. We came up a little bit short there at the end. Give credit to them. Hopefully, we can earn an opportunity to maybe get a chance to play them some other time again."

Of course, there's only one way for these teams to see each other again in a meaningful game this season -- in the Super Bowl.

It's a notion that at the beginning of the season might have seem far-fetched, but it isn't at the start of December.

Baltimore's win was its eighth in a row and improved its record to 10-2 on the season. It was also the first time the Ravens have been challenged in weeks after winning their past five games by 14 or more points.

After the victory, Baltimore offered a similar message as the Niners, sounding like a team that had just been in a serious battle and anticipating that another one could await.

"They came in at 10-1 or whatever their record was," Ravens defensive end Chris Wormley said. "That was a team that was looking to seal up the NFC West. We knew we had a little more work to do to kind of get some recognition out there, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But definitely a playoff game, definitely a team we could see in the Super Bowl if we both go on a nice playoff run. ... It was amazing."

For the Niners, the loss was their second of the year, dropping their record to 10-2. Both of San Francisco's losses this season have come on last-second field goals, the first to Seattle in overtime, and then Sunday's 49-yarder from Tucker.

Tucker's game winner put the finishing touches on a game most 49ers described as having a postseason atmosphere. Every time the Niners got some momentum, the Ravens wrested it away, and vice versa.

"Every week is big, but being out on the field, it was a dogfight, and it definitely felt like we were in a playoff game," Niners defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "And, God willing, we make it to the end, and hopefully we go against them again."

For most of the season, outside observers have questioned the Niners' ability to hang with some of the league's top teams. But even in a loss, the 49ers believe they showed they can slug it out with anyone in the league.

"You feel the urgency, you feel the intensity, the energy of the game, and it feels like a fight," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "You have that same mentality that every play, you are ready to just slug it out.

"Our record speaks for it. We're 10-2, and the way we play the top competition in the league speaks to it. The way we played Green Bay, Seattle, Baltimore... we stack up."

The Niners' loss to Baltimore on Sunday was their second in a three-game gauntlet against some of the NFL's best teams. They defeated the Green Bay Packers 37-8 last week, lost to the Ravens and now will spend a week in Florida preparing for next week's game against the New Orleans Saints.

When that game kicks off, the Niners will become the first team in the Super Bowl era to play three consecutive games against teams with an .800 or better winning percentage this late in the season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

That game also figures to play a key role in determining the NFC playoff picture, with the Niners set for a Week 17 rematch with the 9-2 Seahawks.

It would surprise no one if those games bore a striking resemblance to the one the Niners played on Sunday against the Ravens.

"That was a great game," 49ers tight end George Kittle said of Sunday. "In my opinion, two of the best teams in the NFL went at it, and they made a couple more plays than we did."

Asked if he, too, hoped to play the Ravens again later in the season, Kittle didn't hesitate.

"I can't wait for that opportunity," Kittle said. "Hopefully, we can get that done, and I'm already excited to play New Orleans."
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