LAS VEGAS — As the overall seconds ticked away in Super Bowl LIV, the devastated San Francisco 49ers stand in shocked quietness at the Dry Rock Stadium sideline next letting a 10-point fourth-quarter top dropping off.
Within the aftermath of that 31-20 defeat by the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, the then-upstart Niners took solace within the thought their reign on the govern of the NFC used to be simply starting. A miked up George Kittle used to be stuck on digicam vowing he would get back to the big game “with a vengeance.” Defensive finish Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner, later of their first and 2nd seasons within the league, respectively, figured they’d now not best be again, however that it might occur in shorten sequence.
“When you’re young and naive, you think when you go so early in your career it’s like, ‘Man, this is just what it’s like, you go to the Super Bowl every year,'” Warner mentioned. “That’s not what the case is.”
As Warner and the Niners can attest, there’s not anything simple about achieving this level. The years that adopted the Tremendous Bowl near-miss have presented overwhelming proof of the way dried it’s to go back.
Now, the 49ers are again at the sport’s grandest level. As an advantage, they’ll get some other shot at tutor Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the ones Chiefs at Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium (6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS). Despite the fact that it’s been 4 years, it has felt for much longer to Bosa who mentioned “a lot has happened” because the earlier shuttle.
The 49ers suffered a 2020 season used to be plagued by way of an avalanche of significant shocks. Nearest, a pair of disappointing NFC Championship Recreation defeats within the 2021 and 2022 seasons. They’ve had tricky participant and training departures and a endless layout of questions on which quarterback could lead them back to the promised land.
“It’s very hard,” tutor Kyle Shanahan mentioned. “When you go into January every year to February, it’s just long. But you always feel it after, whether you lose an NFC Championship, whether you lose a Super Bowl. You ask anybody, whether it’s one of them, whether it’s two of them.
“Next that it’s like, ‘Oh my God, that took such a lot and used to be goodbye to get there. How are you able to ever do this once more?”
THE ANSWER TO the question of what, exactly, has been the hardest part of returning to the Super Bowl depends on which member of the 49ers you ask. For Shanahan, it’s easy: the 2020 season in which nearly everything that could go wrong, did.
As though the COVID-19 pandemic that pressured NFL groups to play in front of empty stadiums and brought the world to a halt wasn’t enough, the 49ers’ roster was ripped apart by injuries to Bosa, Kittle, defensive end Dee Ford, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, receiver Deebo Samuel, working again Raheem Mostert and cornerback Richard Sherman. That group played in 37 of a possible 112 games (33%).
That team lost 161.6 games to injury, the second most of any team in the past 20 years to that point, according to Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost metric (which also factored in players missing games for COVID-19 reasons). When December 2020 arrived, the Niners were hit with yet another challenge, as Santa Clara County booted them out in their house amenities as a result of COVID-19 tips that quickly cancelled touch sports activities.
The forbid pressured the Niners to go their complete operation to Glendale, Arizona, for the rest of the season, the place some gamers hired houses past others stayed on the Renaissance Resort as they performed out the thread of a 6-10 marketing campaign.
“We needed to travel reside in a resort the place COVID didn’t appear as heavy of a offer as a result of out of doors of our home windows, the entire atmosphere used to be unmistakable,” Shanahan said. “We were given to take a look at a Dave and Buster’s, a film theater and everybody used to be out. However we were given kicked out of right here as a result of we couldn’t follow soccer out of doors. Nearest we have been in NFL regulations the place we’re in a resort for a day the place we’re now not allowed to peer each and every different. … It used to be like great prison cells and we were given let loose for relaxation.”
The following offseason came with a different kind of drama, as the Niners sought their long-term solution at quarterback after Garoppolo continued to struggle with injuries. They traded 3 first-round choices to the Miami Dolphins to go from Disagree. 12 to Disagree. 3 within the draft and worn the select on proficient however uncooked quarterback anticipation Trey Lance.
Despite the fact that the Niners meant to stay with Garoppolo as starter past Lance discovered, Garoppolo once more battled injury issues. Even with most of the roster healthy again, they struggled to a 3-5 start and spent the final two months of the season treating every game like the playoffs, sneaking into the postseason on the strength of a 17-point comeback in Week 18 against the Los Angeles Rams that pushed them to 10-7.
Led by Samuel’s breakthrough season, the Niners advanced to a rematch against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game and built a 10-point lead through three quarters before losing by three, 20-17. Protection Jaquiski Tartt‘s dropped interception that could have helped ice the game was the indelible image from that defeat.
In 2022, another slow start (3-4) turned into a 10-game winning streak to close the season at 13-4 with an NFC West division crown. Along the way, the 49ers traded for working again Christian McCaffrey and continued more than one quarterback adjustments, as Lance used to be misplaced to a right ankle injury in Week 2 and Garoppolo broke his foot in a Generation 13 win against Miami.
From there, rookie quarterback Brock Purdy emerged as one of the crucial most compelling stories of the season, chief San Francisco to the NFC Championship Recreation towards the Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback shocks were the tale of the Niners’ season till later, and got here up once more that age as Purdy tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his proper (throwing) elbow a couple of performs into the sport. Additional Josh Johnson used to be misplaced to a concussion quickly next and the Niners fell 31-7 in a matchup wherein they performed many of the 2nd half of with a quarterback incapable of throwing the ball.
In keeping with left take on Trent Williams, the malicious style of the ones two NFC name sport losses hasn’t long gone away, however the urgency to crack thru has ratcheted up.
“You want to get it all back in one day,” Williams mentioned. “You want to win a championship the first day of OTAs. But you’ve got to have patience and understand this is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. You need a little luck but for the most part, it’s all about focus and being able to set a standard and being able to get to that standard every Sunday.”
THROUGHOUT THE CLOSE yelps and disappointments, the Niners have had to determine tips on how to contend whilst different groups poach a few of their best possible 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 individuals of Shanahan’s personnel with them.
The Niners additionally made the tricky resolution to trade defensive take on DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, watched as key function gamers comparable to Mostert, defensive take on D.J. Jones, proper take on Mike McGlinchey and safeguard Laken Tomlinson departed in independent company and needed to regulate for draft misses on Lance — who used to be traded in August — and defensive take on Javon Kinlaw, the primary in their two first-round choices in 2020.
“Every year is just so unique,” Kittle mentioned. “That’s what makes it so difficult. … You can’t keep everybody; you can’t pay everybody. You have to fill gaps, you have to bring new guys in. You have to try to keep your culture.
“There’s simply such a lot of interchanging portions, and to be able to proceed and maintain profitable as many regular-season video games as we do, making the playoffs, it’s very tricky.”
Nobody knows better than these Niners how difficult. San Francisco enters this matchup about as healthy as could be expected and has more offensive firepower than last time with the additions of McCaffrey, Williams and wideout Brandon Aiyuk (their second first-round pick in 2020), as well as more experienced versions of Kittle, Samuel and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. They have eight players, including seven starters, who played in Super Bowl LIV and a quarterback — Purdy — they believe can be the difference this time around.
These Niners hope the trials of their journey back to this Super Bowl have strengthened their resolve to finish the job and claim the franchise’s long-awaited sixth Lombardi Trophy, a trophy they haven’t won since beating the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX after the 1994 season.
“We’ve were given to pay it off,” general manager John Lynch said. “No one in point of fact recalls who misplaced within the Tremendous Bowl. If you wish to be remembered … right here’s your alternative.”