49ers Come Up Short

At the conclusion of Week 8 of this season, the 49ers were the most unlikely NFC team to make it to the NFC Championship. They were 3and 5. Thru resiliency and heart, the 49ers ground their way into the NFC Championship game and were about 90 seconds from a berth in the Superbowl. Unfortunately, it was not their year.

The NFC Championship game had many story lines. The 49ers had defeated the Rams six times in a row, including twice this season. In fact, the 49ers had to defeat them the last game of the regular season to secure a spot in the playoffs this year. Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan go way back. They have coached together on several teams. They both became head coaches in the NFC West in the same year. They are both rooted in the West Coast Offense. Additionally, the 49ers came into the game banged up. Jimmy Garoppolo had a shoulder sprain, a thumb sprain and a bone chip in his thumb. All three injuries are on his throwing side, and he played thru those injuries against Cowboys and the Packers in the post season. Trent Williams basically played on one leg the whole NFC Championship game. The 49ers played the game without starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey, starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and starting corner back Jason Verrett. All three players had been injured at various points in the regular season. Lastly, the 49ers took over SOFI stadium during the 17th game of the season, and even more 49er fans showed up for the NFC Championship game.

An underlying story is how each of these teams are built. There are significantly different approaches in how the rosters for each team were constructed. The Rams traded for almost all their best players. Of their superstars, only Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald were drafted. OBJ was signed off the street after the Browns released him. Leonard Floyd, their third best pass rusher was signed as a free agent last off season. The Rams also traded for Von Miller and Matthew Stafford. Lastly, the Rams traded for Jalen Ramsey two years ago. Conversely, the 49ers drafted most of their roster. George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Ayiuk, Elijah Mitchell, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Jimmie Ward, Ambry Thomas and a few others were all drafted by the 49ers. Trent Williams and Jimmy Garoppolo are their only big-name trades acquisitions. Kyle Juszczyk, Laken Tomlinson and Alex Max are their biggest free agent signees. The 49ers prefer to build from the ground up whereas the Rams appear to have traded for their core players. The Rams approach has already been vindicated with two trips to the Super Bowl since McVay’s arrival. The Niners approach, under John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, has taken them to one Super Bowl and two NFC Championships.


The game was hard fought. After trading punts the 49ers stunned the Rams when Jimmy Ward intercepted Matthew Stafford in the endzone after a promising Rams drive. Unfortunately, the 49ers couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and punted the ball back to the Rams. Starting on their own three-yard line, the Rams marched 97 yards in 18 plays to score a touchdown. The 49ers immediately responded with a four play 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by two big Deebo Samuel plays. The 49ers kicked a field goal to end the half after the Rams missed their own field goal attempt.

The 49ers started the second half with the ball but couldn’t manage to get into scoring range. The Rams were forced to turn the ball over on downs in their first possession of the second half. It was a momentum swinging play when the defense stoned Stafford at the line on fourth and one. The Niner offense capitalized when George Kittle caught a touchdown pass 10 plays later. The score was 17-7 in favor of the 49ers with two minutes to go in the third quarter. The Rams scored on their next possession in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. The score was 17 to 14 in favor of the 49ers.

The 49ers started their next offensive possession well. They collected two first downs thru the air. Then, on first down, Elijah Mitchell ran nine yards to make it second and a yard to go. The Rams defense had been playing the run extremely well all game. In fact, they held the Niners to 50 yards on 20 carries the whole game. Yet, at this portion of the game, the 49ers felt they were making some head way. They tried Mitchell to the opposite side of the ball and he lost a yard. It was third and two and they tried an inside run to Juszczyk and he was stoned in the A gap, forcing the 49ers to punt. The 49ers started the drive well, and they need to continue to stretch the lead but they came up short. During the first play of the Rams next possession, Jaquiski Tartt dropped an interception that dropped into his lap. He just…dropped it. Those two back-to-back plays took the wind out of the Niners sails. They held the Rams to field goals, but in the end, the offense couldn’t get anything going again. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. The Rams defense stood tall and executed. The 49ers offense simply did not. The Rams pass rush forced Jimmy G to rush throws. Over the course of the last two 49ers offensive possessions, he thru 5 incomplete passes and an interception to end the game. The 49ers gave it their all, but came up short in the end.

Jimmy G

It was a great season for the 49ers. I don’t think anyone expected them to make the playoffs, let alone drive all the way to the NFC Championship. They gave a laudable effort. As a long time, 49er fan, I am thankful for the years Jimmy Garoppolo played for the 49ers. He is a respected leader in the locker room. Jimmy G is a team guy, not a me guy. He doesn’t have the biggest arm. He makes an occasional bone headed throw, but he is a leader. He allows his teammates to excel. He played thru exceptional pain and injuries this playoff season. He showed grit, fire and leadership. That is what you want in a quarterback. Hopefully Trey Lance learns from Jimmy G’s example. I am thankful for two NFC Championship trips and a Superbowl trip that Jimmy G had a hand in. I am sorry to see him go. I don’t think we ever saw his true potential due to his injury history. Despite his pending departure, the future is bright. They have an excellent young corps of players to build on. I think the Trey Lance era is about to begin.

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