Five Reasons the 49ers Will be Back in the Super Bowl
The 49ers’ trip to the Super Bowl was rather disappointing, but the journey was unforgettable. Just one year after finishing with the second worst record in the NFL, they became the best team in the NFC.
Yes, they fell one game short, but the foundation is set for another Super Bowl run in 2020.
Here are five reasons the 49ers will be back in the Super Bowl next season:
Questions around the NFC
The 49ers are the reigning NFC champs. Their path through the playoffs were near-perfect and rather painless. They won both their games by 17 points. Neither the Vikings nor the Packers posed much of a threat.
Although the 49ers were ultimately defeated, the Chiefs won’t be standing in their way when it comes to getting to another Super Bowl. Neither will other strong AFC teams like Baltimore, Houston and New England. The AFC has star power to last, while the NFC has plenty of question marks.
Yes, free agency and the draft still await, but Green Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Seattle all have flaws. Other teams that missed the playoffs like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles are vulnerable.
It took the best team in the NFL to finally take advantage of San Francisco’s weaknesses. The organization has an entire offseason to address them.
They will be battle-tested
We don’t know when the games will be played, but San Francisco knows who and where it will be playing next season. It won’t be easy. The 49ers’ 2020 opponents held a .527 win-percentage in 2019, which makes their schedule the fourth hardest in the NFL.
They will travel to Dallas, New England, New Orleans and New York twice (Jets and Giants). They’ll host Buffalo, Green Bay, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington. To round out the schedule, the 49ers will of course play division-foes Arizona, Los Angeles and Seattle both at home and on the road.
Despite the difficult schedule, all 16 games are winnable. Yet, the 49ers won’t be catching anyone off guard. San Francisco surprised the NFL last season. That won’t be the case in 2020. Every team will be circling their date with the NFC Champions. It will be hard to repeat their dominant 2019, but if the 49ers can make it through their gauntlet of a season, they should be ready for anything in the postseason.
Motivated by Revenge
As reality and disappointment began to set in that this Championship-run was going to fall one win short, All-Pro tight end George Kittle remained determined.
“I will be back here,” Kittle said on the sideline. “I will be back here and I will be back with a vengeance. You will not get the best of me. No sir.”
If Kittle is poised for a revenge tour, then imagine the rest of the team. Everyone on the 49ers will be fired up and motivated to make amends for their mistakes in Super Bowl LIV. Being so close to tasting victory was a tease to this team. A tease that caused the 49ers to drop them from their peak position.
It shouldn’t be a matter of whether Kittle and the 49ers can get back to the Super Bowl, it’s when. It could be some time in the far future with or without the 49ers, or it could happen next year. If it is Super Bowl LV, expect Kittle and the 49ers to be back with a vengeance.
The depth should be back
An important offseason awaits the organization as they attempt to re-sign defensive lineman Arik Armstead, safety Jimmie Ward and a slew of other important pieces.
Yes, the 49ers are destined to lose some of their free agents. They can’t afford everyone. But if Armstead and Ward can be brought back at the right price, they should be set up for at least 2020.
San Francisco could replenish its roster through the draft while opting to use its money to extend current players in need of long-term deals, some of which are due for hefty pay raises. Kittle, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, safety Jaquiski Tartt, cornerback Richard Sherman and nickelback K’Waun Williams are all slated for free agency in 2021.
Even when the 49ers lose some of their players via free agency and cuts, they should still feel confident given the depth they’ve built over the past two seasons. The 49ers overcame injuries at every position group but quarterback to make the Super Bowl. Yes, all the injured starters returned by the postseason, but the reserves’ regular season performances should inspire belief in another such run.
The 49ers’ defense took a drastic leap in on-field production this season. What’s stopping them from further development in 2020? Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was surprisingly passed up for numerous head-coaching gigs. Those mistakes will haunt the rest of the NFL as Saleh has another year to perfect his dominant defense.
Finally obtaining the pass-rush he’s coveted the prior two seasons, Saleh elevated San Francisco to the top of the NFL. Despite losing key players at all three levels for an extended amount of time, the defense remained a force.
There were some hiccups along the way. Youthful players often got exposed, leading to big-plays. Yet, with another year, the inexperienced should be better acclimated to Saleh’s zone defense. Quarterback pressure, communication and discipline are all major components in a successful zone.
The 49ers were great at all three, but the occasional falter was deadly. If they can limit their mistakes, they could become one of the best defenses of all time.