49ers ready for Super Bowl rematch vs. Chiefs, four years later


LAS VEGAS — As the ultimate seconds ticked away in Tremendous Bowl LIV, the devastated San Francisco 49ers stood in surprised silence on the Arduous Rock Stadium sideline after letting a 10-point fourth-quarter lead slip away.

Within the aftermath of that 31-20 defeat by the hands of the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, the then-upstart Niners took solace within the thought their reign on the high of the NFC was simply starting. A miked up George Kittle was caught on digital camera vowing he would get back to the big game “with a vengeance.” Defensive finish Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner, then of their first and second seasons within the league, respectively, figured they’d not solely be again, however that it could occur in brief order.

“If you’re younger and naive, you assume while you go so early in your profession it is like, ‘Man, that is simply what it is like, you go to the Tremendous Bowl yearly,'” Warner stated. “That is not what the case is.”

As Warner and the Niners can attest, there’s nothing straightforward about reaching this level. The years that adopted the Tremendous Bowl near-miss have provided overwhelming proof of how exhausting it’s to return.

Now, the 49ers are again on the sport’s grandest stage. As a bonus, they will get one other shot at coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and people Chiefs at Tremendous Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium (6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS). Though it has been 4 years, it has felt for much longer to Bosa who stated “quite a bit has occurred” for the reason that earlier journey.

The 49ers suffered a 2020 season was tormented by an avalanche of great accidents. Then, a pair of disappointing NFC Championship Sport defeats within the 2021 and 2022 seasons. They’ve had troublesome participant and training departures and a unending sequence of questions on which quarterback could lead on them again to the promised land.

“It’s extremely exhausting,” coach Kyle Shanahan stated. “If you go into January yearly to February, it is simply lengthy. However you all the time really feel it after, whether or not you lose an NFC Championship, whether or not you lose a Tremendous Bowl. You ask anyone, whether or not it is considered one of them, whether or not it is two of them.

“After that it is like, ‘Oh my God, that took a lot and was so lengthy to get there. How will you ever do this once more?”

THE ANSWER TO the query of what, precisely, has been the toughest a part of returning to the Tremendous Bowl relies on which member of the 49ers you ask. For Shanahan, it is easy: the 2020 season wherein practically every thing that would go unsuitable, did.

As if the COVID-19 pandemic that pressured NFL groups to play in entrance of empty stadiums and introduced the world to a halt wasn’t sufficient, the 49ers’ roster was ripped aside by accidents to Bosa, Kittle, defensive finish Dee Ford, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, receiver Deebo Samuel, working again Raheem Mostert and cornerback Richard Sherman. That group performed in 37 of a attainable 112 video games (33%).

That group misplaced 161.6 video games to harm, the second most of any group up to now 20 years to that time, in line with Soccer Outsiders’ adjusted video games misplaced metric (which additionally factored in gamers lacking video games for COVID-19 causes). When December 2020 arrived, the Niners had been hit with one more problem, as Santa Clara County booted them out of their residence amenities due to COVID-19 pointers that quickly banned contact sports activities.

The ban pressured the Niners to maneuver their whole operation to Glendale, Arizona, for the remainder of the season, the place some gamers rented houses whereas others stayed on the Renaissance Lodge as they performed out the string of a 6-10 marketing campaign.

“We needed to go stay in a lodge the place COVID did not appear as huge of a deal as a result of outdoors of our home windows, the entire state was open,” Shanahan stated. “We obtained to take a look at a Dave and Buster’s, a movie show and everybody was out. However we obtained kicked out of right here as a result of we could not observe soccer outdoors. Then we had been in NFL guidelines the place we’re in a lodge for a month the place we’re not allowed to see one another. … It was like good jail cells and we obtained set free for recess.”

The next offseason got here with a special form of drama, because the Niners sought their long-term resolution at quarterback after Garoppolo continued to wrestle with accidents. They traded three first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins to maneuver from No. 12 to No. 3 within the draft and used the choose on gifted however uncooked quarterback prospect Trey Lance.

Though the Niners supposed to stay with Garoppolo as starter whereas Lance realized, Garoppolo once more battled harm points. Even with a lot of the roster wholesome once more, they struggled to a 3-5 begin and spent the ultimate two months of the season treating each recreation just like the playoffs, sneaking into the postseason on the energy of a 17-point comeback in Week 18 towards the Los Angeles Rams that pushed them to 10-7.

Led by Samuel’s breakthrough season, the Niners superior to a rematch towards the Rams within the NFC Championship Sport and constructed a 10-point lead by means of three quarters earlier than shedding by three, 20-17. Security Jaquiski Tartt’s dropped interception that would have helped ice the sport was the indelible picture from that defeat.

In 2022, one other gradual begin (3-4) became a 10-game profitable streak to shut the season at 13-4 with an NFC West division crown. Alongside the best way, the 49ers traded for working again Christian McCaffrey and endured a number of quarterback adjustments, as Lance was misplaced to a proper ankle harm in Week 2 and Garoppolo broke his foot in a Week 13 win towards Miami.

From there, rookie quarterback Brock Purdy emerged as one of the compelling tales of the season, main San Francisco to the NFC Championship Sport towards the Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback accidents had been the story of the Niners’ season till then, and got here up once more that day as Purdy tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his proper (throwing) elbow a number of performs into the sport. Backup Josh Johnson was misplaced to a concussion quickly after and the Niners fell 31-7 in a matchup wherein they performed a lot of the second half with a quarterback incapable of throwing the ball.

In keeping with left sort out Trent Williams, the dangerous style of these two NFC title recreation losses hasn’t gone away, however the urgency to interrupt by means of has ratcheted up.

“You need to get all of it again in sooner or later,” Williams stated. “You need to win a championship the primary day of OTAs. However you have to have endurance and perceive it is a marathon, it isn’t a dash. You want slightly luck however for essentially the most half, it is all about focus and with the ability to set a regular and with the ability to get to that customary each Sunday.”

THROUGHOUT THE CLOSE calls and disappointments, the Niners have had to determine tips on how to contend whilst different groups poach a few of their greatest coaches and gamers. Defensive coordinators DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans) and Robert Saleh (New York Jets) and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) all departed for head-coaching jobs and took different members of Shanahan’s employees with them.

The Niners additionally made the troublesome determination to commerce defensive sort out DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, watched as key position gamers equivalent to Mostert, defensive sort out D.J. Jones, proper sort out Mike McGlinchey and guard Laken Tomlinson departed in free company and needed to regulate for draft misses on Lance — who was traded in August — and defensive sort out Javon Kinlaw, the primary of their two first-round picks in 2020.

“Yearly is simply so distinctive,” Kittle stated. “That is what makes it so troublesome. … You may’t hold everyone; you may’t pay everyone. It’s important to fill gaps, you need to deliver new guys in. It’s important to attempt to hold your tradition.

“There’s simply so many interchanging components, and so to proceed and maintain profitable as many regular-season video games as we do, making the playoffs, it’s totally troublesome.”

No one is aware of higher than these Niners how troublesome. San Francisco enters this matchup about as wholesome as could possibly be anticipated and has extra offensive firepower than final time with the additions of McCaffrey, Williams and wideout Brandon Aiyuk (their second first-round choose in 2020), in addition to extra skilled variations of Kittle, Samuel and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. They’ve eight gamers, together with seven starters, who performed in Tremendous Bowl LIV and a quarterback — Purdy — they imagine could be the distinction this time round.

These Niners hope the trials of their journey again to this Tremendous Bowl have strengthened their resolve to complete the job and declare the franchise’s long-awaited sixth Lombardi Trophy, a trophy they have not received since beating the San Diego Chargers in Tremendous Bowl XXIX after the 1994 season.

“We have got to pay it off,” common supervisor John Lynch stated. “No one actually remembers who misplaced within the Tremendous Bowl. If you wish to be remembered … this is your alternative.”


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