It was a heartbreaking loss in a season where the San Francisco 49ers had avoided so many heartbreaking losses. But when push came to shove, they just couldn’t close it out in Super Bowl LIV, where they lost, 31-20, to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 49ers had a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to beat Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and his inevitable magic. San Francisco couldn’t take advantage of Tarvarius Moore fourth quarter interception. But the wheels started coming off with 8:53 left in the game when Emmanuel Moseley missed coverage on 3rd and 15 that led to a 38-yard reception by Tyreek Hill. It gave the Chiefs life and they ended the drive with a TD, making it 20-17.
Later, with under two minutes left the game and the score 24-20 Chiefs, 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a chance to be the hero but overthrew WR Emmanuel Sanders, who would have either scored or at least brought them within the 5-yard line.
“Those are moments we dream of,” Garoppolo said after the game. “We got off on the right note, and we couldn’t finish it off.”
Garoppolo finished the game 20-of-31 for 219 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He, along with Shanahan, will shoulder a lot of the blame – Garoppolo for his inability to execute in the clutch and Shanahan for what many deem has questionable time management and play-calling when it really mattered.
But, let’s remember, Shanahan took a team that was 4-12 last season to the Super Bowl, and Garoppolo, in his first full season as a starter and coming off a torn ACL, did the same. There were missed opportunities early and late, but in the end, Mahomes and Andy Reid (and defensive end Chris Jones, who deflected three passes and brought constant pressure to Garoppolo) just beat them fair and square, and sometimes, that’s just how it goes.
That being said, it’s a hard pill to swallow for a team and a coach that has the Lombardi Trophy all but locked up, until they didn’t.
“Just mistakes, just mistakes,” cornerback Richard Sherman, who was beat by Chiefs’ WR Sammy Watkins for a 38-yard catch that said up what would be the winning touchdown, said. “Guys weren’t tired. We just didn’t execute.”
Perhaps no one took the loss harder than LT Joe Staley, who has now been a part of two almost Super Bowl wins in his 13-year career.
“This is super disappointing. This is very hard being in this moment right now,” Staley said. “You put your entire heart and soul and whole entire life into trying to be a Super Bowl champion, and you get toward the end of your career and realize how rare these opportunities are.”
On the plus side, this young 49ers team is poised to be back in the Super Bowl next season.
“We’re a young team and have a very bright future,” Garoppolo said. “We need to take this in stride, remember the feeling and let it fuel us in the offseason.”
They’ll hope to retain DB Jimmie Ward and DL Arik Armstead, both free agents and both incredibly important to the San Francisco defense, which is putting it mildly. They’ll probably lose Sanders but that’s how football goes.
But, well, the coach said it best:
“We’ll lick our wounds, get over this and I’m fired up for next year. I expect to get all these guys back and add a few more. Will be fired up for next season.”
It was one hell of a season. Go Niners and Be Legendary.