Beyond the deflating feeling of emptiness that came from the 49ers catastrophic luck at the quarterback position that derailed their season, is the fact that it feels like everything else that transpired in Philadelphia during Conference Championship weekend almost doesn’t matter.
Regardless of the takes and the analysis of what went down at Lincoln Financial Field, the common consensus will continue to revolve around nothing ultimately mattering due to the fact that the 49ers were without an able-bodied quarterback for a large chunk of this game.
While I can understand that being the definitive takeaway, it also overshadows another glaring issue for the 49ers in this game, and something that had plagued them in almost every single one of the five losses they had this season. Self-inflicted mistakes via penalty.
The 49ers finished this game with 11 penalties for 81 yards, with seven of those penalties resulting in a first down for Philadelphia. Those seven penalties that went for a first down were the most by any team in the playoffs since 2002.
Look, I get it, without a quarterback the odds of winning any game let alone a conference title game on the road are essentially non-existent.
However, any slight glimmer of hope that might have remained for this 49ers team to pull off a miracle was effectively erased with a barrage of untimely infractions that gave extra life to an Eagles offense that the San Francisco defense fought tooth and nail to keep at bay.
I will say that some of the penalties that were incurred seemed soft given the circumstances, such as Jimmie Ward’s pass interference penalty, something you’d hope the referees would allow the players to play through in a game of such magnitude between two physically imposing squads.
It’s understandable that 49ers fans might feel like the whistle went one way in this one, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that being the case. But ultimately, this is not the first time we have seen this 49ers team unravel with a barrage of uncharacteristic mistakes.
Think back to week one against the Bears in Chicago, a game that is often remembered for the sky opening monsoon that flooded the field and greater Soldier Field area with an immense amount of rainfall.
While the weather played a huge factor in that game, the 49ers were penalized 12 times for 99 yards in that game. After completely stonewalling the Bears' offense for the first two quarters, an unnecessary face mask penalty on a run for no gain kept a drive alive for Chicago, which ultimately resulted in their first touchdown of the game and sparked a 19-0 run en route to a victory.
That was one of six penalties that the 49ers defense committed that resulted in a first down for a Bears' offense that was among the worst in the entire NFL this season.
Now it was just one of 17 regular season games, but when looking at how close the 49ers came to having the NFC playoffs run through Levi’s Stadium, it does sting a bit knowing that a major reason why the 49ers ultimately had to go on the road to Philadelphia was because of their self-inflicted mistakes against a team that will be selecting number one overall in April’s draft.
This roster is too talented and has far too many experienced veterans to be making the kind of self-inflicted mistakes that seem to rear their head at the worst possible times. Sure, the officiating wasn’t ideal and the 49ers did not have a viable option at quarterback, but finishing the year the same way they started with those backbreaking self-inflicted mistakes is a good motivator to get that stuff cleaned up heading into the 2023 season.