Mon Feb 3 12:18pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) reacts after turning the ball over on downs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan speaks during a news conference after the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
San Francisco 49ers' Emmanuel Sanders sits on the bench during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo walks to the sideline during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt York)
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers' remarkable turnaround ended up just a few minutes shy of a Super Bowl title.
After becoming only the third team to go to the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games, the 49ers stumbled at the end and lost 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
''It was a great season,'' linebacker Fred Warner said. ''I can't take anything away from what we've done. To go 4-12 and then go to the Super Bowl and have a chance to win in it, it's one of those things that will hurt for a while. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure we're better.''
The Niners (15-4) were poised to join the 1999 St. Louis Rams as the only teams to win a Super Bowl a year after going 4-12. Instead, they join the 1988 Bengals as a four-win team that came so close to a championship a year later but faltered at the end.
In this same stadium 21 years ago, Joe Montana and San Francisco drove past Cincinnati for the winning score in a 20-16 victory. The collapse for this version of the Niners was on both sides of the ball. The offense fell apart in the fourth quarter and the defense got burned for big plays by Patrick Mahomes that turned a 20-10 lead into a 31-20 loss in the blink of an eye in a crushing loss.
''You could see it in the guys eyes in there. It means something to guys,'' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. ''That means you've got guys that care about what they're doing, guys who care about each other. We're a young team and we've got a very bright future. We've got to take this in stride and remember this feeling and let it fuel us in the offseason.''
Garoppolo's first full season as a starter had ups and downs. He led the team to 13 wins in the regular season with four fourth-quarter comebacks and three games with at least four TD passes. But he also showed a propensity for baffling mistakes. His 18 turnovers in the regular season were the most of any player in the postseason, and then he threw two interceptions in the Super Bowl.
A big reason for optimism for the Niners was the play of their top two picks in the 2019 draft. No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa became a dominant defensive end, makinbg nine sacks in the regular season and four more in the playoffs on the way to winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Second-round receiver Deebo Samuel showed he has the ability to be a star, excelling as a runner, receiver and blocker. He set a Super Bowl record for receivers with 53 yards rushing against the Chiefs and also had five catches for 39 yards. His physical play sets the tone for the Niners.
One of the feel-good stories of the season was the play of running back Raheem Mostert, the former special teams standout who proved he can be a No. 1 back after being cut by six teams. He led the team with 772 yards rushing in the regular season and then had 220 yards and four TDs in the NFC title game against Green Bay.
He ran for 58 yards and a TD in the Super Bowl and should get a chance for more work next season.
The Niners will have some difficult decisions when it comes to free agency this offseason with several key players set to hit the open market next month. The three biggest potential unrestricted free agents are defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who had a breakthrough season with 10 sacks; safety Jimmie Ward, who was a key part of the league's stingiest pass defense; and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who sparked the passing game after his midseason addition.
San Francisco also can give extensions to key players like tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, which might not leave much money left for other free agents.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
The Niners won't have to improve much to contend again next season. Many of the key pieces are in place from a team that won 13 games in the regular season and made it to the Super Bowl.
San Francisco could use help at cornerback across from Richard Sherman and will need another top receiver if Sanders leaves in free agency.
Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera said that tight ends coach Pete Hoerner is really excited about tight end Logan Thomas because of his smarts, savvy and athletic ability. Thomas made the switch from quarterback to tight end several years ago, but he's still in the process of learning the position. The 28-year-old former fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2014 had a career-high 16 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown in 16 games (three starts) for the Lions in 2019. Despite the departure of Jordan Reed, Thomas will likely be behind Jeremy Sprinkle for aerial targets in 2020, putting him off the fantasy radar in this rebuilding offense next season. But he's a name to mark down in dynasty/keeper leagues.
Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera made it sound as though the team is leaning heavily toward selecting Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the second overall pick in this month's draft. It's been their expected pick all along ever since analysts starting doing mock NFL drafts. Will another team desperate for a quarterback step up and overwhelm the 'Skins with a trade to move back? It's possible, but we'll have to wait until later this month to find out. Washington could certainly use a game-changing pass-rusher off the edge, which is exactly what Young should be at the next level.
The Philadelphia Eagles tried to trade wide receiver Alshon Jeffery during the 2019 season, just after the team guaranteed Jeffery's salary for the 2020 season. The Eagles attempted to deal him when his production fell off and his injuries piled up. Jeffery was also the "anonymous player" that later criticized general manager Howie Roseman and the decisions he was and wasn't making. Jeffery is now rehabbing from a serious Lisfranc injury and is a question mark for the start of training camp and the 2020 regular season, so he'll be nearly impossible to trade now. There's no rush on a decision, but the Eagles could eventually release Jeffery, especially if his rehab isn't going well. The 30-year-old wideout caught just 43 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games in 2019. He has played a combined 23 games the last two years due to injuries, and his fantasy and real-life stock is falling quickly.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) says that he'll be 100 percent for the start of his 17th NFL season after playing in just two games in 2019. "I was going to be ready to go for OTAs and the minicamps," Roethlisberger said. "That was going to be the plan. Now I don't know how much I was going to do, I don't know if I was going to be doing team stuff or stuff like that, but I would have been definitely going to be out there ready to go." Big Ben has been throwing pain-free and has no doubts that he'll be able to return and play at a high level. We probably won't be able to see him throw until this summer, at the earliest, due to the coronavirus, though. The veteran will be a risky QB1 selection coming off injury at his age, but he can definitely be a serviceable fantasy backup capable of QB1 outings if he stays healthy.
Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (core), a possible first-round selection in this month's draft, had core muscle surgery on Tuesday, according to sources. Aiyuk has dealt with the issue the last few months and ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February. With organized team activities canceled this spring due to the coronavirus, Aiyuk decided to have the surgery now. It could affect his draft stock negatively, especially since teams won't be able to see him in person for a while, but it remains to be seen.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery was actively shopped after the team guaranteed his 2020 salary last season. Jeffery found out that he was on the market and was troubled by the mixed messages he had received from the team, a source close to the receiver said.
Fantasy Spin: Jeffery is now 30 and has been riddled by injuries his entire career. He hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2014, and he has very minimal upside as a WR5.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins averaged 96 yards receiving in three playoff contests in 2019 after averaging 51.8 receiving yards in 13 regular-season outings.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack managed only three catches (four targets) for 14 yards in his final six games after producing 11 catches (13 targets) for 68 yards in his first eight outings.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne signed his one-year tender on Monday. Bourne had 30 receptions on 44 targets for 358 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in 16 games (zero starts) for the team in 2019. There is plenty of opportunity for Bourne and others to start in three-receiver sets in 2020 behind Deebo Samuel. With nine touchdowns in his last two seasons with the Niners, the 24-year-old has proven to be a nice red-zone presence for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but it remains to be seen if he can become a consistent starting option. There will be plenty of competition at the receiver position in San Fran, and they're also likely to address the position in the draft.
Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said that the team has "had internal discussions" about an extension for running back Christian McCaffrey. The stud running back is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, but the Panthers may wait and have him play on the fifth-year team option in 2021 before signing him to a long-term extension. Whether or not McCaffrey is playing with a new deal or not, he should be the No. 1 overall fantasy selection this fall. The 23-year-old former eighth overall pick ran the ball 287 times for a career-high 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 116 passes for 1,005 yards and another four scores.
Updating a previous report, free-agent S D.J. Swearinger (Saints) officially signed with the New Orleans Saints Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Updating a previous report, free-agent WR Emmanuel Sanders (49ers) officially signed with the New Orleans Saints Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Fantasy Spin: Sanders is joining one of the top offenses in the NFL and should see a solid amount of targets in 2020. He can be a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Updating previous reports, free-agent TE Richard Rodgers (Eagles) and CB Ronald Darby (Eagles) officially signed with the Washington Redskins Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
Updating a previous report, free-agent DE Benson Mayowa (Raiders) officially signed with the Seattle Seahawks Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Updating previous reports, free-agent FB Anthony Sherman (Chiefs) and DT Mike Pennel (Chiefs) officially re-signed with the Kansas City Chiefs Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
Updating a previous report, free-agent DT Jordan Phillips (Bills) officially signed with the Arizona Cardinals Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Updating a previous report, free-agent WR Geronimo Allison (Packers) officially signed with the Detroit Lions Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Updating a previous report, free-agent RB Todd Gurley (Rams) officially signed with the Atlanta Falcons Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Fantasy Spin: Gurley will be the main running back for the Falcons next season and likely will be a weekly starting option in most fantasy leagues.
Miami Dolphins restricted free-agent LB Vince Biegel signed his one-year tender offer Monday, April 6. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Updating a previous report, free-agent DE Cassius Marsh (Cardinals) officially signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars Monday, April 6. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.