The last time the 49ers were the 1-seed, they rolled through the NFC in 2019 before falling short in the Super Bowl. Here's how this year's team compares to the 2019 49ers.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The last time the 49ers entered the playoffs as the 1-seed, they played two games against the NFC North before facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs. Now in 2024, albeit in a very different way, the 49ers beat two teams from the NFC North before facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs again.
The 49ers in 2019 were an upstart - unexpected contenders riding the backs of a potent defense and deft play-calling by Kyle Shanahan. It took the full course of the season for their ability to be legitimized in the eyes of the media, and late-season stumbles were a worrying sign for a young team. However, their defensive dominance up until the Super Bowl quieted some of the doubts about this team.
The 49ers in 2023 are a culmination of the last three years - players considered young in 2019 are grizzled veterans in 2023, past playoff failures have hardened the core of this team. No one was particularly suprised at their fast start to the season, and their mid-season slip was quickly corrected. The 2023 49ers have faltered in the playoffs though, squeaking by into the Super Bowl on the back of unprecedent comebacks.
These differences between the two teams in narrative play out on the field as well. Although there are players from the 2019 roster still on the 2023 49ers, these teams are remarkably different. And although the 2019 team is still the high-water mark for the 49ers under Kyle Shanahan, there is reason to believe that this iteration might be even better. Let's see how.
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