49ers Year-by-Year: 1971

What follows is a brief historical recap of the San Francisco 49ers' 1971 season. In 1971, the 49ers moved into Candlestick. Read on to see how their first season in a new stadium went, returning almost every single one of their starters from a 1970 team that came a game away from the Super Bowl.

Date:

Opponent:

Score:

Record:

Opponent's Record:

Sept. 19

@ Atlanta Falcons

L: 17-20

0-1

1-0

Sept. 26

@ New Orleans Saints

W: 38-20

1-1

1-1

Oct. 3

@ Philadelphia Eagles

W: 31-3

2-1

0-3

Oct. 10

Los Angeles Rams

L: 20-13

2-2

2-1-1

Oct. 17

Chicago Bears

W: 0-13

3-2

3-2

Oct. 24

@ St. Louis Cardinals

W: 26-14

4-2

2-4

Oct. 31

New England Patriots

W: 10-27

5-2

2-5

Nov. 7

@ Minnesota Vikings

W: 13-9

6-2

6-2

Nov. 14

New Orleans Saints

L: 26-20

6-3

3-4-2

Nov. 21

@ Los Angeles Rams

L: 6-17

6-4

6-3-1

Nov. 28

@ New York Jets

W: 24-21

7-4

4-7

Dec. 6

Kansas City Chiefs

L: 17-26

7-5

8-3-1

Dec. 12

Atlanta Falcons

W: 3-24

8-5

6-6-1

Dec. 19

Detroit Lions

W: 27-31

9-5

7-6-1

Playoffs:

Dec. 26

Washington Redskins

W: 20-24

10-5

9-5-1

Jan. 2

@ Dallas Cowboys

L: 3-14

10-6

13-3

Head Coach: Dick Nolan

Key Losses: DT/DE Roland Lakes

Key Additions: G John Watson

In 1971, things were quiet around the structure of the NFL for was one of the first times in close to 5 years. The only notable change occurred because the Boston Patriots moved into Schaefer Stadium in the offseason, prompting them to change their name from the Boston Patriots to the New England Patriots.

The Patriots weren't the only team to change homes that season, though, as the 49ers completed their move out of Kezar Stadium and into Candlestick Park. Candlestick had been built for the city's baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, before they began playing there in 1960. However, 1971 was not the first time that professional football had been played there. The Oakland Raiders had played their 1961 season at Candlestick. The ballpark would later be adapted heavily for football, but remained largely unchanged during the 1971 NFL season.

For the 49ers, expectation were running high. Save for the single loss of long-time defensive lineman Roland Lakes, the team that had been so very successful just a year before was almost completely intact. Things weren't so stable for the organization as a whole, as team Director of Personnel Pappy Waldorf slowly gave up responsibility as he prepared to retire. New GM Jack White had his own vision for the team, and was already beginning to rearrange the scouting staff - a move that would appear to contribute to the sudden downfall that hit the team in the mid-‘70s.

Even so, whatever was happening behind the scenes didn't change the fact that the product on the field was nearly identical to the one from 1970, and nothing short of another playoff appearance would be satisfactory for the group.

The season opened as the team stumbled to a close, but ugly loss to the Falcons. Despite playing well on defense, the offense surrendered 7 turnovers in a game that should have been much worse than the final score indicated.

This was a team that had learned through years of hardship together how to bounce back, and they strung together two impressive victories in the ensuing weeks before returning to San Francisco to play their first home game of the year and the first game at Candlestick in franchise history.

There was perhaps no more fitting opponent for the historic game than the division rival Los Angeles Rams. As the two teams battles back and forth for division titles these years, the rivalry between the two California teams was quickly becoming one of the bitterest in the league. A win at home against the Rams to christen the new stadium would be just the thing to propel the 49ers into the middle stretch of the season. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Much like in the Atlanta loss earlier in the year, the 49ers sabotaged what was mostly a brilliant defensive effort - one in which they held the Rams to -18 total passing yards - with a sputtering offense and untimely turnovers. In fact, a fumble that the Rams returned for a touchdown was one of the deciding plays in a game that was ultimately decided by just 7 points.

Again, however, this was a team that knew how to rebound, and they played even stronger following their second loss. This time they put together 4 straight convincing victories and, looking as strong as they had all season, appeared poised to make another serious run at the division crown.

The streak was broken in week 9, though. In a game that featured New Orleans WR Dave Parks torching his former team for two scores, the 49ers ended up losing more than just the game. Star safety Jimmy Johnson broke his wrist, and though he continued to play it was an injury that he would struggle to recover from the rest of the season.

At 6-3 and leading the division, week 10 was a critical week for the 49ers. Going to LA to face the 5-3-1 Rams, the 49ers could either put some distance between themselves and their rivals in the standings with a win, or actually fall into second with a loss. In a performance that resembled the first meeting between the teams, the 49ers offense couldn't help their stellar defense and gave up 4 more turnovers on their way to giving up the game. Staring up at first in the standings, the rest of the season would have to be an uphill battle.

The next two games were uninspiring as the 49ers squeaked past a bad Jets team and then lost their third game in 4 weeks when the Chiefs came to San Francisco. Finishing the season on a homestand, though, the 49ers were able to recover. Still a half game back in the standings, the 49ers had to win to stay in it. Rising to the call, they defeated the Falcons in a revenge game. The win catapulted them back into first as the Rams lost, but week 14 would decide everything.

With the Rams winning in the morning, the 49ers would have to win the final game of the season to win the division. Again rising to the occasion, the 49ers battled to a hard fought victory over the Lions and found themselves in the playoffs for the second season in a row - the first time in franchise history the team had made successive post-seasons.

On December 26, in terrible weather at Candlestick, the 49ers faced the Washington Redskins and came one step closer to their first ever Championship appearance with a tight 24-20 victory. The next week would pit them against Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys, though - the same team that had knocked them out of the playoffs the season before. In a defensive battle in Dallas, the 49ers suffered the same fate that had contributed to most of their regular season losses: turnovers. John Brodie threw 3 interceptions, one of which eventually led to a critical Dallas touchdown and, ultimately, the game. Losing 14-3, the 49ers would not play another game in 1971.

Stadium Profile: Candlestick Park

Ground first broke on the construction of Candlestick Park in 1958, and was completed in time for the San Francisco Giants to play baseball there in 1960. Originally offering a view of the San Francisco Bay, the ballpark underwent heavy renovations once the 49ers started playing there and the view was obscured by the new seats that were installed as a part of this. In fact, because of the view of the bay, the park's name during construction had been Bay View Stadium, and only became known as Candlestick after a name-the-park contest in 1959.

In 1960, Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch that the ballpark ever saw.

Known for its trademark swirling winds, the ballpark was actually designed in a way that was intended to break the wind and allow for easy game conditions. However, the design was an utter failure and the winds eventually became the defining feature of the ballpark. The overall design of the ballpark was not a failure, though, and in 1989 it was even credited for saving thousands of lives during the Loma Prieta earthquake. While the ballpark suffered minor structural damage, nobody within was so much as injured by the quake.

In 1995, the naming rights for the ballpark were sold to 3com, and the park would continue to be known by corporate names for over a decade following. After the contract with Monster expired in 2008, though, the ballpark name reverted to Candlestick. A football only stadium now, the 49ers continue to play their home games at Candlestick and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future while the details of a new stadium play appear no closer than ever to materializing.

A special moment for the ballpark and the many local fans, the playing field was officially named Bill Walsh field in August of 2007 to commemorate the recently departed legendary coach who almost singlehandedly turned a sad sack franchise into a historic dynasty.

Primary References:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/sfo/1971.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_NFL_season
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candlestick_Park
http://albums.phanfare.com/5406850/3047485#imageID=54912581

San Francisco 49ers 1972 Media Guide

Sporting New National Media Guide

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