FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This was a thundering Super Bowl stress test, and the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick passed in every substantial way.
Then they failed in unimaginable, historic ways.
Then they jumped back ahead of the Patriots in this game. And then ... and then ...
And then they won the game 41-34.
What in the world happened here?
Actually, this seemed like five or six different incredible games, all wrapped up into this endless, surging, counterattacking epic.
For about three quarters, the 49ers were clearly the best team in the NFL, period.
The 49ers defense turned over Tom Brady, their offense marched down the field, and they had a young quarterback who survived a bout of the dropsies to coolly lead them to 31-3 lead.
They did this in hostile territory, in the rain and sleet, in the same stadium where the Patriots blew apart the Houston Texans only six days previously.
If the road to a Super Bowl title goes through New England, the 49ers were flying down the path at full speed.
And then ...
For a mind-blowing 45 minutes of real-time insanity, the 49ers looked like one of the worst teams in the league.