In a rather odd bit of timing on Friday, the Interwebz had a pair of article discussing worst losses. For The Win ran down the most devastating loss in franchise history for each of the 32 NFL teams. Earlier in the day, Deadspin asked what championship outcome would you change.
For both questions, the clear answer for the San Francisco 49ers would be Super Bowl 47. Had the 49ers beaten the Baltimore Ravens, they would have won their sixth Super Bowl, and remained undefeated in the title game. The loss on its own was disappointing, but to lose that zero was a whole lot of salt in the wound.
Rather than discuss Super Bowl 47, I thought it would be interesting to look at other losses. The 49ers have a whole lot of huge games in franchise history, and plenty of losses we'd love to reverse. And I think you could make some interesting arguments for quite a few of those losses. I'd even go so far as to include a regular season game on the list. One change doesn't guarantee subsequent games would have turned out the same, but that's not the point of this, right?
- 1991 NFC title game: The 49ers lost a heartbreaker to the New York Giants, and I bet some fans might argue that one as the worst loss over the Super Bowl loss. If the 49ers won that game, they would have faced the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 25, with a chance to win an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl.
- 1984, Week 7 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: The 49ers completed the 1984 season 15-1, and went on to easily defeat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. Had the 49ers beaten, there's no guarantee they run the table. But if they had, it would have been fitting to defeat the Dolphins in the Super Bowl to join the 1972 Dolphins as the only undefeated teams in NFL history.
- 1999 Divisional round: The 49ers finally beat the Green Bay Packers in a crazy wild card game. The following week, they lost a tough one to the Atlanta Falcons that saw Garrison Hearst busted up his ankle on the first play from scrimmage. The 49ers lost 20-18, in a game in which they were outgained by 90 yards on the ground. Who knows what happens the following week against Minnesota, or in the Super Bowl against Denver, but this team was a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
- 2014 NFC title game: Obviously we'd prefer the 49ers beat the Seahawks in this game, but the injuries would have been a huge storyline leading up to the Super Bowl. We could go for a reversal of the injuries like with Garrison Hearst above, but even with the injuries, yea, we'd like to reverse this one.
- 2012 NFC title game: Another one in the Jim Harbaugh era. The 49ers lost by a field goal after Kyle Williams' overtime fumble. 49ers-Patriots would have been an interesting Super Bowl.
- 1971, 1971 NFC title games: Who knows what 49ers history would have been like if the team had beaten the Cowboys in either of these conference championship games. They would have faced the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V or the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.
We could add every playoff loss in here, including four other NFC title games to Washington, Dallas, and Green Bay. For now though, I'm going to stick with the seven games above. You could make arguments for games that saw Joe Montana and Steve Young suffer significant injuries, but we'll stick with the wins and losses. The Garrison Hearst injury is the one exception given the connection between that and the loss.
Feel free to offer up your own suggestions.