Football is a game of inches, and never was this more true than for the 2013 San Francisco 49ers, whose season came up just a few inches short of a return trip to the Super Bowl.
And it wasn’t just in the NFC Title Game against Seattle where they came up short, it goes back farther, all the way to a regular season loss against New Orleans that in the long run, cost the 49ers the NFC West and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
In Week 10 against the Saints, San Francisco led 20-17 with under four minutes to play, when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked quarterback Drew Brees, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Patrick Willis near midfield. Instead of 49er ball, a personal foul penalty was called for “hitting the QB around the head/neck area”. The call became the subject of great debate, with arguments for and against.
The result was that the Saints kept the ball, added 15-yards, kicked the game tying field goal, and won as time expired.
In the end, the 49ers finished 12-4 on the season, one game behind Seattle, and ended up going on the road to Green Bay to play the Packers, who had four less wins than San Francisco.
Had the call in the Superdome gone the 49ers way, with Brooks tackling Brees just below the neckline, San Francisco would have finished 13-3 and actually would have won the NFC West due to splitting the season series with Seattle and having a better record within their division (5-1 in the NFC West).
But that’s football, it’s a game of inches and the 49ers are all too familiar with that.
This year, the 49ers will look to get over the championship hump, and finally win a Super Bowl. They’ve got all the makeup to become World Champs in 2014, but they’ll have to “maintain the ship” as injuries and suspensions have already got the best of San Francisco early in the season.
Key Offseason Moves
Without question, the biggest move of the offseason for the 49ers happened during the second day of the NFL Draft, and it wasn’t by anybody they selected, but rather traded for. Using a 4th round pick, San Francisco acquired wide receiver Stevie Johnson from the Buffalo Bills. It was the kind of the move that attacked the weakest part of the 49er offense, the slot receiver.
In Johnson, San Francisco added a receiver who broke the 1,000 yard mark three consecutive seasons while playing for a Buffalo team that’s known for its running game.
Among the other notable additions included Safety Antoine Bethea, cornerback Chris Cook, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
If anything, the 2014 offseason for the 49ers might be better known for their losses than their gains. In total, San Francisco lost 3/4ths of their starting secondary from last year (Tarrell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner), center Jonathan Goodwin and fullback/special teams ace Anthony Dixon.
The 2014 Draft class was all about adding depth and explosive playmakers, most notably, South Carolina WR/KR Bruce Ellington, who looked great during preseason. Carlos Hyde was rated as the No. 1 running back in the draft yet somehow was able to fall to the 49ers as the third RB taken in the second round, pick 57.
Hyde was a great pickup by the Niners, especially with the uncertainty of Marcus Lattimore.
Chris Borland, an All-American and Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year at Wisconsin was supposed to add depth, but with injuries to Navorro Bowman and the suspension of Aldon Smith, he may find himself in the lineup sooner rather than later.
9/7 At Dallas
9/14 Chicago (NBC)
9/21 At Arizona
10/5 Kansas City
10/13 At St. Louis (Monday Night)
10/19 At Denver (NBC)
11/2 St. Louis
11/9 At New Orleans
11/16 At N.Y. Giants
11/27 Seattle (NBC)
12/7 At Oakland
12/14 At Seattle
12/20 San Diego (Saturday game)
It’s real simple, it’s Super Bowl or bust for the 49ers.
From the top down, they are built to win. This is a Super Bowl football team. They have a top 5 defense while Kaepernick finally has every weapon he needs on offense.
They’ve got depth at every position, taking years if needed to develop their depth chart (Carradine, Quinton Dial, and Tank Carradine).
The last three seasons have ended in heartbreak for San Francisco. A few inches one way or the other, whether it be the roll of a bounce off Kyle Williams, or a pass too deep into the endzone one year, or too short another year, and the 49ers could have been looking at multiple Lombardi Trophies.
At some point, San Francisco is going to either get it right, or fade away like the Donovan McNabb Philadelphia Eagles did in the 2000s. The Eagles were good, but they couldn’t quite figure it out, and despite five total apperances in the NFC Title game in eight years, they walked away without every winning a Super Bowl.
Jim Harbaugh is a history buff, and he knows more than anybody that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. For the 49ers, the time is now. It’s Super Bowl or bust.
Tags: San Francisco 49ers