NEW ORLEANS - Chris Culliver's lousy Super Bowl week only got worse on Sunday.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco won the game's MVP award largely by targeting Culliver, the 49ers nickel cornerback, whose two gaffes on one play in the second quarter resulted in the longest pass play allowed by the 49ers all season.
On the play, Culliver gave a sizable cushion to Ravens wideout Jacoby Jones, who dashed past Culliver deep down field, then held up for the wobbly pass from Flacco. Jones fell to the turf after the reception, but Culliver ran past without touching the receiver. Jones sprang up and outran the rest of the 49ers defense that was just catching up to the play.
"I know that he feels bad," said linebacker Patrick Willis. "Cully is competitive, and he wants to win on every play. Today he had a tough one, and I stand behind him, and I know what kind of player he is. This is only going to fuel him and make him better."
The run-up to Sunday's game took a bad turn for Culliver on Tuesday when, during Media Day, he told shock jock Artie Lange that gays wouldn't be welcome in the 49ers locker room. Culliver quickly apologized and vowed to repair his image in the gay and lesbian community, but he became the focal point of the Super Bowl media from that point forth.
Fellow cornerback Carlos Rogers didn't think the ordeal affected Culliver in the game.
"He apologized, and the team moved on, too," Rogers said.
Culliver also became a common target for Flacco.
He was in coverage on a pair of 30-yard pass plays and was called for pass interference on third down on a crucial Ravens drive in the fourth quarter. The penalty gave the Ravens a first down, and they eventually kicked a 38-yard field goal that pushed their lead to five points.
Neither Jim Harbaugh nor Culliver thought the penalty should have been called.
"Didn't think that was interference," Harbaugh said.
Culliver, meanwhile, noted that he had good position on an earlier deep pass in which Torrey Smith seemed to go over Culliver's back for the ball. "But when he's on my back and grabbing me and stuff like that, (the official) doesn't want to throw the flag then," a defiant Culliver said. "So like I said, a lot of these referees are biased and they really can have a big factor on the game."
Culliver also said he didn't feel like Baltimore was trying to single him out in coverage.
"No, I didn't care," he said. "How many pass break-ups did I have? Know what I'm saying? I don't care if they was targeting me or not. Like I said, they wasn't getting open and stuff. Just the deep pass, know what I mean?"
Culliver, who had a key interception in the NFC championship game against the Falcons, was credited with two pass break ups and four tackles Sunday, one of them behind the line of scrimmage.
Said safety Donte Whitner: "They targeted him a few times, got a couple of big plays on him, but he is a young guy, very talented, very athletic. He will use this also. We're a young team. We will be back."
-- Matt Barrows