However, I could only ponder the ramifications of another gut-wrenching playoff defeat for the 49ers, who have now faltered in three straight seasons against elite opposition. In January 2012, two catastrophic muffed punts helped the New York Giants overcome a fourth-quarter deficit and score a 20-17 overtime victory. Despite that setback, the 49ers appeared to turn the corner after naming Colin Kaepernick the starting quarterback. San Francisco rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the NFC title game to beat Atlanta and reach its first Super Bowl in 18 years. Nonetheless, the 49ers were unable to complete a second comeback victory and lost after the Ravens made a goal line stand with two minutes left.
The 49ers have assumed the personality of their scrappy coach and showed resilience and toughness in the face of past adversity. After getting humiliated in an early season defeat to the Seahawks, the 49ers bounced back to close the regular season on a six-game winning streak. Following road victories in Green Bay and Carolina, the chance for ultimate redemption beckoned in the Emerald City. In another instant classic, the 49ers and Seahawks traded punishing runs, big hits and fumbles until the 49ers found themselves down 23-17 with four minutes left. And just as it looked like Kaep would engineer a conference-winning drive, Richard Sherman made a tremendous defensive play to tip the ball towards his teammate, and the Seahawks grabbed a 23-17 triumph.
If the 49ers have not been the NFL’s best team under Harbaugh, they have undoubtedly been the most entertaining squad in the last three postseasons. Despite San Francisco’s recent playoff setbacks, they have enjoyed equally dramatic playoff victories against the Saints, Falcons and Packers under Harbaugh. In fact, six points or less have determined six of the 49ers’ league-leading eight playoff games since 2011, so the casual fan should relish the chance to watch a 49ers playoff game.
Like the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers, these 49ers make no excuses and compete vigorously despite several soul-crushing defeats. The Dodgers became an all-time iconic team despite numerous narrow losses to the Yankees and Giants and even won a World Series in 1955. While I always want the 49ers to win, I would not be devastated if they became the “bums” of the NFL. In two weeks, either the Seahawks or Broncos will win the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, these 49ers make me realize that winning is not everything in sports or life.
— Dominic Kearns