Those of you able to catch the end of the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game probably thought about how the Saints have been getting kicked in the head in recent years. Here’s a team that now has back-to-back postseason losses with the Minneapolis Miracle in 2018 and then the pass interference call that wasn’t on Sunday. It was a rough game for the Saints and who can blame them? Another heartbreaking post season loss. It was enough for ESPN’s Adam Schefter to tweet out a statement that no other team has suffered this type of postseason disappointment.
Minny Miracle last year, the no-call this year.....There hasn’t been an NFL team that ever has suffered more devastating back-to-back postseason losses than the Saints.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 20, 2019
Yeah no. Not even close. I get the take, but there’s several teams that have dealt with worse heartbreak. The most obvious example for all NFL fans is the Buffalo Bills losing four straight Super Bowls. For 49ers fans, I think we can recall a team that didn’t have two of those losses, but three. Before I could say anything, Nathan Kley responded and took the words out of my mouth:
49ers lose NFC championship on two muffed punts, lose the following year in super bowl after a 1st and goal for the win, then lose in NFC championship to their rivals on an int. So there's that. @NinersNation— Nathan Vander Kley (@natevkley) January 21, 2019
The Saints might have been the team to suffer heartbreak in recent times, but no team ever? *Shiver* I don’t want to recall all three years of this, but I must. Tuck the kiddies to bed and leave the lights on, this gets pretty nasty.
When Jim Harbaugh arrived, everyone had the 49ers pegged for a last place finish in the NFC West and nowhere near the the NFC Championship game. The 49ers did just the opposite, getting the No. 2 seed and hosting the New York Giants where the winner would go to the Super Bowl. Despite atrocious wide receivers and the Giants nipping at their heels, the 49ers had this thing under control. Then this happened to tie the game up.
Followed by this in overtime. Giants advance, 49ers fans are subjected to tales of how elite Eli Manning was, crown Kyle Williams the scourging blight of the roster, and to put a bow on things, treated to a Giants victory over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl the 49ers very well could have won.
One punt and the 49ers couldn’t get it done. Ugh. Onto the next year.
The 49ers took care of their business to notch the No. 2 seed in the playoffs yet again. Colin Kaepernick became the starter midway through the season and embarrassed the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. Despite a rough first half in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers came back in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons thanks to a crucial run-in by Frank Gore. The win punched their tickets to the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens.
This was a game the 49ers weren’t in control of to start. Fumbles, terrible officiating, and, uh, a power outage were the things fans had to deal with. When the lights turned back on, the 49ers were rejuvenated and started making a huge comeback. Touchdown by touchdown, they shaved the Ravens’ lead until they got into the redzone. No problem right? Kaepernick has led the 49ers to the promised land. They had the Ravens on their heels all second half. Frank Gore had a massive run to set things up. All they had to do was punch the ball in.
Well, then this final series happened. On the five yard line, and the 49ers couldn’t get either a helmet to helmet penalty for a hit on Michael Crabtree, a pass interference call for a hold on Crabtree, or (the preferred outcome) a simple run play before the play clock expired.
Needless to say, fade passes were not punching the ball in.
Five yards and the 49ers couldn’t. Get. It. Done. It was one of the worst nights for any 49ers fan. So close and the season was over thanks to bad clock management, playcalling, and crummy officiating.
So there’s two back-to-back losses. Unlike the Saints, the 49ers have a third. Oh man, I don’t want to go there, but I must.
The 49ers once again went back to the NFC Championship game. Thanks to an, um, incident, the 49ers found themselves a wild card and battling through each opponent on the road before netting another NFC Championship. Except this one was in CenturyLink Field against the Seattle Seahawks, a place the 49ers got blown out of earlier in the season.
The 49ers took an early lead and went into the half up by seven points. A score that should make no fan feel optimistic given where they were playing. That fear reared itself in the fourth quarter thanks to a botched roughing the kicker penalty, an ill-advised Colin Kaepernick interception and a NaVorro Bowman knee injury. After the injury though, the 49ers got a fumble and had some time on the clock (along with time outs) to get the ball downfield for a touchdown and win the game. They started chipping away yardage against the Seahawks but not calling timeouts, or having much urgency. Regardless of how frustrating it was not to see some hustle, they still had time to put this thing away.
Then yep, you guessed it, this happened. The play people are still trying to figure out an actual name for. The Seahawks went to the Super Bowl and pile-drove the Denver Broncos into oblivion to get their first ring. The 49ers once again couldn’t. Get. It. Done.
Three years, one year in the Super Bowl, two in the NFC Championship. All close games and all lost in the most gut-wrenching way possible. It’s one thing if the 49ers got blown out in any of these games, but they were put in position to win each game and for some strange reason or another—be it play-calling, clock management, or the refs—they blew it.
If we’re talking recent heartbreak, the Saints have had a rough two years and win the medal. The miracle and that awful, awful PI call are a duo that is ridiculous and can level a team’s morale. How the coaching staff keeps everyone together after that is anyone’s guess. But two back-to-back heartbreaking losses being the standard that no other NFL team has suffered?
The 49ers have that on lockdown. Move along.