An overtime loss in the Super Bowl where leads in the final two minutes of the game and in overtime were both not enough to secure a victory? Add it to the ever-increasing list of abysmal 49ers losses in recent history.
That’s the hard part about San Francisco’s 25-22 OT loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII – it’s a strange type of sports agony. It is undoubtedly present, but it has also been lingering since this stretch of rough finishes began in the 2011 season, so there’s also a numbing sensation that comes with the 49ers losing their final game of the year in a fashion that looks like it was conceived by some combination of NFL Films and the guy who created the Saw franchise.
Some would call 49ers fans lucky. There are teams like the Jets who haven’t been to the playoffs very often and then lost new quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the first drive of the year. Those fans would kill to see their team make as many deep playoff runs as 49ers fans have experienced over the last decade and change.
49ers fans probably feel something that’s the antithesis of lucky. Unlucky, some might call it.
Since the 2011 season the 49ers have been to seven NFC championship games – that’s 54 percent of the NFC title games in that stretch. They’ve also been to three Super Bowls – that’s 23 percent of those.
Almost every team and fan base would love that kind of postseason resume. For the 49ers though, all it amounts to is heartbreak, and it never ends in normal fashion where they just lose by a couple scores. It’s always gut-wrenching. Here’s a rundown of how each 49ers playoff run has ended since 2011:
2011, NFC championship: Giants 20, 49ers 17
Punt returner Kyle Williams fumbled two punts, including one in the fourth quarter that allowed the Giants to take a 17-14 lead, and then another in overtime that allowed the Giants to kick the game-winning field goal.
2012, Super Bowl: Ravens 34, 49ers 31
The 49ers trailed in this one 28-6 after Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. Then San Francisco battled back and trailed 34-29 when running back Frank Gore took a carry 33 yards to the Baltimore 7. A 2-yard LaMichael James carry put the 49ers five yards from a Super Bowl victory. They’d never get closer than that as three throws to wide receiver Michael Crabtree fell incomplete.
2013, NFC championship: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17
The NFL’s best rivalry in the early 2010s culminated in an NFC championship game that will go down as one of the best NFL games of all-time. Unfortunately for 49ers fans, San Francisco was not only on the wrong side of this one, but it ended on an interception generated by a pass breakup in the end zone from cornerback Richard Sherman – the main antagonist for the 49ers in the rivalry. San Francisco led this one 10-0 in the second quarter and 17-13 entering the fourth and they couldn’t hang on for a win over their hated rival.
A brief pause in the playoff festivities for a quick reminder of how the lean years went in Santa Clara. Buckle up!
2014: The Jim Harbaugh beef with Jed York and Trent Baalke reaches a fever pitch. The 49ers go 8-8, and Harbaugh and the 49ers mutually part ways after the season.
2015: Head coach Jim Tomsula stumbles his way to a 5-11 finish before getting fired.
2016: Head coach Chip Kelly stumbles his way to a 2-14 finish before getting fired. His only two wins came against the 4-12 Los Angeles Rams, including a Week 16 win that pushed the 49ers out of the No. 1 pick that would have landed them defensive end Myles Garrett.
2017: Head coach Kyle Shanahan goes 6-10 in his first season thanks to a 5-0 finish with new QB Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter.
2018: Garoppolo tears his ACL in Week 3 vs. the Chiefs (of course). The 49ers finish 4-12. Okay, back to the playoff stuff.
2019, Super Bowl: Chiefs 31, 49ers 20
San Francisco led this one 20-10 entering the fourth quarter. Kansas City still trailed 20-10 with less than half a quarter remaining. In the final 6:13 they ripped off 21 straight points. There was a third-and-15 pass from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill that set up their first of three fourth-quarter TDs, and a missed Garoppolo throw to WR Emmanuel Sanders that will both go down as massive, history-altering plays.
Another brief postseason pause.
Pick a 49ers starter, they probably miss time due to injury. Nick Bosa tears his ACL. Richard Sherman misses a bunch of time. So do Dee Ford and Deebo Samuel. Three different QBs start games, including Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard, and a 2-7 finish lands San Francisco at 6-10 after a 4-3 start.
2021, NFC championship: Rams 20, 49ers 17
Another fourth quarter lead gets blown. San Francisco is up 17-7 going into the fourth quarter, and then the Rams score the final 13 points to win it. A dropped interception from Jaquiski Tartt with 9:55 left in the fourth quarter and the 49ers leading 17-14 is the lasting image for 49ers fans in this one. The Rams eventually tied the game on that drive, and won it on their next one.
2022, NFC championship: Eagles 31, 49ers 7
The Brock Purdy injury happens in the first quarter, but let us not forget the non-challenge from Shanahan on a fourth-down conversion by the Eagles on their first drive. Brutal.
2023, Super Bowl: Chiefs 25, 49ers 22 (OT)
Only the second overtime game in NFL history. The 49ers led with 1:57 to go in the game and in overtime and they couldn’t figure out a way to close out Patrick Mahomes again.