49ers: Super Bowl LIV loss hurts, but the Niners will be back

The San Francisco 49ers tragically fell short in Super Bowl LIV, but their February letdown shouldn’t take away from their season-long accomplishments.

The San Francisco 49ers have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Not after falling short of their sixth championship ring with a loss in Super Bowl LIV. And not after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in that very game.

There were mistakes along the way — things that could have gone better. There will always be the what-ifs and the hypotheticals that drive fans crazy for years to come.

But at the end of the day, the 2019 season should be one to look back fondly on even if the ultimate goal wasn’t accomplished.

Just the fact that we are sitting here in February talking about an appearance in Super Bowl LIV is miraculous in its own right. Let’s rewind and remember how we got here.

The 49ers went 4-12 last season and were a combined 17-47 over the last four seasons. Despite a Super Bowl appearance back in 2013, there were few franchises with less recent success than the Niners.

Of course, there was still reason for optimism going into 2019. Jimmy Garoppolo was set to return from his season-ending ACL tear and the additions of players like Nick Bosa, Kwon Alexander, and Dee Ford in the offseason gave fans hope for an improved defense.

But no one could have predicted just how improved that defense would be.

The 49ers would go on to have the No. 2 defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game but with a much more strenuous schedule than the New England Patriots who just edged them out for first place, it’s easy to argue that they were really the true top defense in the league.

That’s a credit to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh who silenced his critics in one of the most miraculous single-season turnarounds in NFL history. And that’s a credit to the players on the defense that made it happen.

And on offense, head coach Kyle Shanahan was finally able to show the football world what kind of offense he could craft in San Francisco. Only three offenses averaged more yards per game than the 49ers with their ground game being particularly deadly.

Everyone expected progress, but this level of progress was unheard of.

Make no mistake about it, the 49ers face difficult challenges ahead. With very little cap space and key players like Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders set to hit the open market, changes are going to be made.

Not to mention players like George Kittle and DeForest Buckner who will be in need of massive extensions in the near future. It isn’t going to be easy to keep the entire roster together.

And in reality, it’s likely impossible.

But the 49ers have a core of players as good as any other team in the league. Nick Bosa isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Buckner should be here to stay. Fred Warner is a monster and should be a fixture on defense for years to come.

And on offense, Deebo Samuel should only continue to develop. The offensive line impressed a ton in 2019 and while they will need to replace Joe Staley eventually, the unit is far from an issue. Of course, Kittle should remain a centerpiece once he receives his extension.

And let’s not forget about Jimmy Garoppolo who — despite his limitations and mistakes — has proven that he’s good enough. He may not be Patrick Mahomes, but the 49ers can win with him even if they fell just short this year.

The 49ers appear to have the right coaching staff leading the charge and general manager John Lynch has proven that he could build a championship-caliber team. Simply put, the 49ers didn’t end up in Super Bowl LIV by mistake.

This is a good team, and it should stay that way for a number of years.

No one is going to argue that this doesn’t suck — because it does. Losing sucks and it sucks even more when you come so far only to fall one game short.

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But that’s football and if there’s any solace that could be taken, it’s that the 49ers are here to stay.

They will be back.

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