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49ers left 'hurting'; Shanahan stands by coaching

2/12/2024 12:26:26 PM
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For the second time in four years, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a deathly silent locker room with the difficult task of finding the words to comfort a team that had climbed to within a step of the NFL mountaintop only to come up short.

Much like after his team coughed up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, Shanahan came to the same conclusion following Sunday night's 25-22 overtime loss to those same Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, Nick Wagoner of ESPN reports.

"There's nothing different to say," Shanahan explained. "I don't care how you lose, when you lose Super Bowls, especially ones you think you can pull off, it hurts. But I think when you're in the NFL, I think every team should hurt except for one at the end. We've gotten pretty damn close, but we haven't pulled it off, and we're hurting right now."

Sunday night's loss was painful not just for the fact that the Niners again had a double-digit lead they couldn't hang on to or that they had a pair of costly special teams miscues or that running back Christian McCaffrey fumbled away a promising opening drive. It hurt for all those reasons but even more so because it's the latest in a series of devastating near misses that are becoming a late-January and early-February tradition in San Francisco.

The Niners have advanced to at least the NFC Championship Game in four of the past five seasons. They've gone to the Super Bowl in two of those campaigns. They've lost double-digit leads in both Super Bowls and an NFC Championship Game, with a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles without a healthy quarterback for most of that game mixed in.

It's San Francisco's third consecutive Super Bowl loss since its last win following the 1994 season, making it the fifth team to lose three straight Super Bowls along with the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. The Niners are also now 0-4 against the Chiefs under Shanahan, the most losses without a win versus any opponent under his guidance.

There has been plenty of success for the 49ers to make it deep into the postseason on a regular basis. But the inability to turn those into championships has left a continuously bitter taste in the 49ers' mouths.

"We've been so close so many times that there's only so many more opportunities that we have," defensive end Nick Bosa said.

Prior to the game, Shanahan said he and his analytics staff discussed overtime possibilities and decided that with Patrick Mahomes on the other side, it would be best to take the ball first because that also would mean the Niners got the ball third in the event both teams matched points on their opening possessions and overtime progressed to sudden death.

Shanahan said he felt good about the game he and his staff coached.

"What I can't live with is when I do stuff that I didn't plan on doing or that I didn't do, and second-guess myself," Shanahan said. "I'm proud of what we did today as a coaching staff and as players in terms of we worked and we did everything we planned on doing. We just didn't get it done."

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