49ers lament missed chances

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By JOSH DUBOW

The pa­rade the San Fran­cisco 49ers had hoped to be en­joy­ing was be­ing held a cou­ple thou­sand miles away in Kansas City. In­stead of cel­e­brat­ing a record­ty­ing sixth Su­per Bowl ti­tle that seemed so close, the Nin­ers spent the morn­ing Wed­nes­day pack­ing up their lock­ers, say­ing good-byes and won­der­ing how what seemed to be a safe 10-point fourth-quar­ter lead dis­ap­peared so quickly in a 31-20 loss to the Chiefs.

SANTA CLARA — The pa­rade the San Fran­cisco 49ers had hoped to be en­joy­ing was be­ing held a cou­ple thou­sand miles away in Kansas City.

In­stead of cel­e­brat­ing a record-ty­ing sixth Su­per Bowl ti­tle that seemed so close, the Nin­ers spent the morn­ing Wed­nes­day pack­ing up their lock­ers, say­ing good-byes and won­der­ing how what seemed to be a safe 10-point fourth-quar­ter lead dis­ap­peared so quickly in a 31-20 loss to the Chiefs.

“As an of­fense, as a team we’ve been in that sit­u­a­tion mul­ti­ple times and we an­swered the bell,” quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo said. “It’s tough when that one time you didn’t. That’s what peo­ple will re­mem­ber. It’s the world we live in. You just have to own up to it and be a man about it. It will fuel us in the off­sea­son, fuel me in the off­sea­son to come back bet­ter.”

A re­mark­able turn­around sea­son filled with mem­o­rable mo­ments as the 49ers (15-4) be­came the third team ever to make the Su­per Bowl fol­low­ing a sea­son with four or fewer wins, ended only in dis­ap­point­ment.

Garop­polo and the of­fense fell flat in the fourth quar­ter, the de­fense couldn’t stop Pa­trick Ma­homes and the Chiefs of­fense and the Nin­ers be­came the third team to lose a Su­per Bowl af­ter lead­ing by at least 10 points in the sec­ond half.

“It’s like watch­ing the ‘Ti­tanic,’” re­ceiver Em­manuel Sanders said about watch­ing the film. “You hope the ship don’t sink. For some rea­son, the ship keeps sink­ing over and over.”

The Nin­ers ap­peared to be in great shape when they took over with a 2010 lead and less than 12 min­utes to play on an in­ter­cep­tion by Tar­var­ius Moore.

Garop­polo then com­pleted a 12-yard pass on sec­ond down to Ge­orge Kit­tle to make him 18 for 21 on the day. Garop­polo com­pleted only 2 of his fi­nal 10 passes, fal­ter­ing down the stretch.

A missed high pass to Deebo Sa­muel and a false start on Joe Sta­ley led to a punt that set up the first of Kansas City’s three fourth-quar­ter TDs.

That score came af­ter Tyreek Hill got open on a 44-yard pass on thir­dand-15 as free safety Jim­mie Ward had to guard against a big play over the mid­dle and couldn’t get over in time to break up the pass.

“It was a right call, it was a per­fect throw and a great catch,” Ward said. “Me be­ing in the mid­dle of the field, I re­ally couldn’t get over . ... The only way I would have played that bet­ter is if I would have guessed. I didn’t have any choice.”

San Fran­cisco then went three-and-out on the next drive with Garop­polo’s sec­ond-down pass to an open Kit­tle over the mid­dle get­ting bat­ted down at the line by Chris Jones.

Af­ter the Chiefs took the lead, Garop­polo missed an open Sanders be­hind the se­condary on a third-down pass from the Kansas City 49.

“At some point you have to move on from it. It sucks,” Garop­polo said. “Ob­vi­ously, some throws I wish I had back, some throws I wish I made dif­fer­ently. The throw to E, I missed him, put a lit­tle too much on it.”

A sack on the next play and a long TD run by Damien Wil­liams put the game out of reach, lead­ing to the off­sea­son of won­der­ing, “What if ?”

“It was a col­lec­tive ef­fort,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “We had mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to fin­ish the game as a team. We fell short of that. There’s no blame to be put on any­body.”

The Nin­ers now look to use the dis­ap­point­ment as mo­ti­va­tion but first will come the in­evitable changes that hap­pen each year in the NFL. Key play­ers like Sanders, Ward and de­fen­sive line­man Arik Arm­stead are all el­i­gi­ble to be free agents.

They each ex­pressed a de­sire to re­turn but it might be tough to bring them all back un­der the salary cap. There will be other moves as well as San Fran­cisco looks to avoid the Su­per Bowl hang­over that has plagued so many run­ners-up in the past.

Only three teams have bounced back from the dis­ap­point­ment of a loss in the ti­tle game to win it all the fol­low­ing year, with Dal­las and Mi­ami do­ing it in back-to-back sea­sons in 1971-72 and then the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots again in 2018.

Eight other Su­per Bowl losers re­turned to the game the next sea­son only to lose again, in­clud­ing Buf­falo three times. But 15 of the past 33 teams that lost in the Su­per Bowl failed to even make it back to the play­offs the fol­low­ing year, in­clud­ing the Los An­ge­les Rams this sea­son.

“If it doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally turn into fuel for you, I think you’re in the wrong sport,” Kit­tle said. “I’m ready to roll.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

QUES­TIONS San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo speaks to re­porters at the team’s NFL foot­ball train­ing fa­cil­ity in Santa Clara on Wed­nes­day.

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