It’s been almost three weeks since the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Superbowl. Just writing this down brings back the pain and hurt. I’ve done my best do move on and not dwell on it. Yet, as any true fan will tell you, the pain never goes away. In some ways, the pain of a season ending loss resides with us forever. That was the answer I gave my wife the day after the loss. I was deeply depressed and she asked, “It’s only a game, when will you get over it?” How does a fan answer that sort of comment and question? ONE, it’s not only a game – it’s life. After our families health and welfare, there are few things more devastating than a season ending loss, ESPECIALLY when it’s a game for the world championship. And, TWO, I’ll never get over it.
On that note, I thought I’d re-live the other top-5 DEVASTING LOSSES the 49ers have suffered since I began following the team in 1970, as an 11 year old 6th grader at Tam Valley School.
It should be pointed out that the 49ers were founded in 1946, and for 24 years, only twice made it to the post season. It was before my time, but old time 49er fans will remember a painful playoff loss to the Detroit Lions in 1957. The 49ers were in the lead at one time by the score of 27 – 7, then gave up the lead and lost the game 31 – 27. That was the last playoff game for the 49ers until 1970, when John Brodie was at the tail of his career, having 2 final excellent seasons with the likes of Gene Washington, Dave Wilcox, Frank Nunley, Jimmy Johnson, Cedrick Hardman, and Charlie Krueger. They won their division in 1970 and 1971, only to lose both years season ending defeats to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title games. As difficult as those losses were, there were not as painful as what happened in 1972.
PAINFUL DEFEAT #1: For the 3rd year in a row, the 49ers faced the Cowboys in the 1972 playoffs, only this time it was a first round game. The 49ers were favored, and went up quickly. They had a 28-16 lead with two minutes remaining in the game. Dallas scored twice with Roger Staubach performing his heroics, and Preston Riley bouncing an on-sides kick off his chest. The Cowboys won 30-28.
These three consecutive playoff loses to Dallas were a great deal of the reason “The Catch”, by Dwight Clark in 1982 was so sweet.
PAINFUL DEFEAT #2: The 1998 49er Season was a success on most accounts. Steve Young had his finest year to date. The Niners had a healthy Jerry Rice, a young Terrill Owens, a pro bowler Garrison Hearst. The team finished 12-4 and met the Green Bay Packers in a wild card game. They defeated the Packers in the final seconds as Terrill Owens make “The Catch #2” to win the game. The following week Garrison Hearst broke his ankle on the first offensive series of the game, and the Niners never recovered. Falcons won 20-19. It also turned out to be the final playoff game for Steve Young. It was the end of the 49ers Dynasty.
PAINFUL DEFEAT #3: The 1983 49ers were two years post their first Superbowl victory. The core of the team was still young, and not quite reaching their prime. They reached the NFC Championship game, and were tied in the final quarter, only to lose 24-21 when a fathom holding call was signaled against Ronnie Lott, giving the Redskins the opportunity to kick a game winning field goal with less than 2 minutes in the game. That pain is still felt to this day.
PAINFUL DEFEAT #4: The 1987 49ers had one of their finest regular seasons, posting a 13-2 record. Week after week they routed their opponents, with Jerry Rice in his second season and blossomed as the leagues finest. Montana returned from a back injury and had his finest statistical career. Rice set a league record by catching 22 Touchdown passes in 12 games. They were strong favorites to return and win the superbowl. Instead, they laid an egg in round one of the playoffs and were sounded defeated by the Minnesota Vikings. It was a loss that almost cost Bill Walsh his job.
PAINFUL DEFEAT #5: Perhaps the most painful of all defeats, including the loss of this years superbowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens….. The Roger Craig fumble loss to the NY Giants in 1991. The 49ers were looking to win their 3rd superbowl in 3 years. They finished the season 14-2, and defeated easily the Washington Redskins in the first round. They played sluggish vs the NY Giants in the NFC Championship game, yet had the lead, and the ball with less than a minute to go. All they had to do was run out the clock. Instead, they ran Roger Craig up the middle, and he fumbled, giving the NY Giants one last chance. The Giants capitalized and kicked a field goal to win the game 15-13. This loss sat with me for months, and 21 years later, I still drop my head in sadness when I think about it…
So, no my dear wife… I will never get over this years loss to the Ravens…. It’s a pain I simply learn to live with…