2021 Super Bowl: How 49ers' chances were affected by one day last year

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Jennifer Lee Chan
·2 min read
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How one day could have altered 49ers' Super Bowl LV chances originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

If March 20, 2020 went differently, there might be two different teams facing off in Tampa on Super Bowl Sunday. 

On that fateful day, shortly after the country learned what the term “shelter in place” entailed, Tom Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The future Hall of Fame quarterback had flirted with the 49ers, but finally made the choice to move to Tampa. 

If Brady instead had chosen the Bay Area as his next landing spot instead of Florida, would the 49ers have returned to the postseason for a second consecutive year? 

The public will never know how close the 49ers and Brady came to an agreement, but when looking at what could have been, it’s not difficult to see a different ending to the 2020 season for the 49ers. 

Nick Mullens started the bulk of the season for the 49ers, appearing in 10 games, starting eight of those. He threw 12 interceptions and fumbled the ball six times, accounting for 58 percent of the team’s 31 turnovers. Mullens completed 176 of his 274 attempts for 2,277 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 64.2 completion rate. 

Jimmy Garoppolo started six games and C.J. Beathard took the remaining two matchups. The three 49ers quarterbacks combined for 371 completions on 570 attempts for 4320 yards, 25 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and 11 fumbles. The team committed 31 total turnovers 

In 2020 the 49ers actually scored more touchdowns (45) than their opponents (42).

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Brady threw 12 interceptions and fumbled the ball four times through the regular season, which was 94 percent of the Buccaneers’ 17 turnovers for the season. He completed 401 of his 610 attempts for 4,633 yards and a 65.7-percent completion rate. 

Maybe Brady’s most important 2020 statistic, however, was throwing for 40 touchdown passes in the regular season, which is 15 more than all three 49ers quarterbacks combined. The Buccaneers scored 59 total touchdowns prior to the playoffs while their opponents only managed 42. 

The 49ers suffered an incredible amount of injuries throughout the 2020 season with offensive playmakers like George Kittle only able to suit up for eight games, and Deebo Samuel for seven.   

The club lost several of their top stars on defense as well, with Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford only on the field for five games combined. Still, Robert Saleh’s group finished the season in the top 10 of several defensive metrics. 

Brady under center could have been a game-changing element to a second consecutive run to a Super Bowl for the 49ers. The veteran quarterback might have been chasing his seventh ring while bringing a sixth Lombardi trophy to the Bay Area, but alas, we will never know what could have been. 

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