Road to Super Bowl LIV: San Francisco 49ers

Leigh Copson:

The San Francisco 49ers are just one win away from lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the sixth time in franchise history, and ahead of this eagerly-awaited clash with the Kansas City Chiefs we have been taking a look at back the Niners’ road to Super Bowl LIV.

READ MORE: Get our free Super Bowl tips for San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs.

Week 1: 49ers 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

In a division that features last season’s Super Bowl losers, the Los Angeles Rams, and a regular postseason contenders, the Seattle Seahawks, there were no loft expectations surround a San Francisco team that had gone 4-12 in 2018. Improvement was expected though, and they made a promising start to the 2019 season as three interceptions and a strong second-half showing lifted them to a 31-17 victory over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Week 2: 49ers 41 Cincinnati Bengals 17

A win over the Bucs was never going to make San Francisco serious Super Bowl contenders and neither was a rout of a dreadful Cincinnati team in Week 2. However, the Niners could only beat what was put in front of them and they were met with very little resistance as they tamed the Bengals. Jimmy Garoppolo threw three touchdown passes and a three-headed monster at running back racked up 259 rushing yards and a couple of scores as San Francisco gave a glimpse of the formula that would take them from also-rans to top dogs in the NFC.

Week 3: 49ers 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Were the 49ers for real or were they merely feasting on poor teams? That was still the question being asked after Dante Pettis caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo with 80 seconds remaining to see of a Pittsburgh team that had let LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown go in the summer and had lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending injury. San Francisco were 3-0 though and just one win away from equalling their win tally from the previous season.

Week 5: 49ers 31 Cleveland Browns 3

While San Francisco came into the season with very little hype, the same could not be said of Cleveland. The blockbuster offseason acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr had many tagging them as contenders after a promising 2018 season, but they looked anything like a potential Super Bowl winner as they went 2-2 through their first four games and San Francisco were happy to pile on the misery. Garoppolo, Breida and Tevin Coleman all impressed, but it was the 49ers defense who were the stars of the show, holding the Browns to just 180 yards of total offense while forcing four turnovers. We had seen a glimpse of the recipe for success for San Fran.

Week 6: 49ers 20 Los Angeles Rams 7

Week 6 would provide the 49ers with their biggest challenge to date. Los Angeles were clearly suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, but if San Francisco were to stake their claim to be legit contenders then they needed to impress here. They did just that. Robert Salah’s defense was once again in dominant form, shutting down Jared Goff and the Rams offense as they held the LA QB to just 78 passing yards while allowing the home team only 157 yards of total offense. He rest of the league was now sitting up and taking notice.

Week 7: 49ers 9 Washington Redskins 0

San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman is tackled by Washington players (Photo by Mark Goldman/Zuma Press/PA Images).

This was supposed to be a blow-out win for San Francisco against a hapless Washington team, but then the relentless rain came and made life incredibly difficult for both teams at FedExField. The Niners did what they had to do though as three second-half field goals from Robbie Gould lifted them to victory.

Week 8: 49ers 51 Carolina Panthers 13

San Francisco boasted a flawless 6-0 record heading into the visit of Carolina and even though the Panthers became the first team to put double figures on the 49ers since Week 3, the outcome of this matchup was never in doubt. Garoppolo tossed a couple of touchdown passes and the defense forced three turnovers, but it was Coleman who grabbed all the headlines as he rushed for 105 yards a three touchdowns while also catching a TD pass.

Week 9: 49ers 28 Arizona Cardinals 25

A blowout win of Carolina was supposed to be followed up by a convincing win over Arizona, and while the final score did not suggest a comfortable win it was pretty straightforward stuff from San Francisco. The Cardinals did open the scoring with a Kenyan Drake touchdown less than three minutes in, but Garoppolo responded with four touchdown passes as the host’s fourth-quarter fightback attempt proved to be in vain.

Week 10: 49ers 24 Seattle Seahawks 27 (OT)

Seattle were the team leading the pursuit of San Francisco in the NFC West so a victory here would have put the 49ers firmly in control of the division. A tight contest was expected and that was exactly what we go. San Francisco started strong to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Seahawks then took control by putting up 21 unanswered points during the second and third quarters. The Niners responded in the fourth when Chris McLaughlin nailed a 47-yard field goal to force overtime, but he was merely delaying the inevitable as Jason Myers struck the game-winning field goal from 42 yards with just four seconds left in the additional period.

Week 11: 49ers 36 Arizona Cardinals 26

Would a first defeat of the season be the start of a downward turn for one of the NFL’s surprise packages? The answer was no. Garoppolo may have thrown two picks, but he countered those turnovers with 424 yards and four passing touchdowns as the 49ers returned to winning ways, setting them up nicely for a high-profile clash with Green Bay.

Week 12: 49ers 37 Green Bay Packers 8

Simply put – this game was never even close. Instead of providing San Francisco with a challenge, Green Bay turned up at Levi’s Stadium, rolled over and died with an embarrassing effort. The 49ers took a 23-0 lead before half-time, held Aaron Rodgers to 104 passing yards and gave up only 198 yards in total, with 138 of them coming in ‘garbage time’ when the game was over. There could be no more doubting that San Francisco were a force in the NFC and serious Super Bowl contenders.

Week 13: 49ers 17 Baltimore Ravens 20

On the back of that rout of Green Bay came what many thought would be a Super Bowl dress rehearsal (Tennessee put paid to that). What followed was a closely-contested matchup that saw the two teams locked on 17-17 when Baltimore took possession of the football with 6:28 to go. That was all the time they needed though as Lamar Jackson led the Ravens into range and Justin Tucker did the rest, settling the contest with a 49-yard field goal.

Week 14: 49ers 48 New Orleans Saints 46

San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould (9) celebrates after hitting a game-winning field goal in New Orleans (Photo by USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images).

The 49ers could not afford to dwell on that heart-breaking loss because next up for them was the always difficult trip to New Orleans to face the Saints. San Francisco’s success so far had come on the back of dominant defense and a pounding run game, but on this occasion Garoppolo would have to trust his arm and go toe-to-toe with one of the best gunslingers in NFL history, Drew Brees. The Niners quarterback was up to the challenge though as he threw four touchdown passes, but it was not a scoring pass that proved to be the decisive pass. San Fran trailed 46-45 when they got the ball back with just 60 seconds remaining, and that was enough time for Garoppolo to hit George Kittle for a couple of huge pass plays, one of which went for 39 yards. That gave Robbie Gould an opportunity to boot a game-winning field goal and he obliged from 30 yards.

Week 15: 49ers 22 Atlanta Falcons 29

San Francisco were brought crashing back down to Earth a week later as the found themselves on the receiving end of sensational finish. The 49ers looked to have wrapped up the win when Gould converted a 43-yard field goal with less than two minutes to go, but Atlanta responded in style as Matt Ryan led them down the field and hit Julio Jones for the game-winner. The fumble recovery for a touchdown by Olamide Zaccheaus after that was merely icing on the cake for the Falcons.

Week 16: 49ers 34 Los Angeles Rams 31

Pressure was mounting on San Francisco. The previous week’s loss had once again put their bid for the number one seeding in serious jeopardy and it meant nothing less than a victory would do when the Los Angeles Rams paid a visit to Levi’s Stadium on the penultimate weekend. The Rams had put up very little fight in the first meeting between the two teams, but they made the Niners work for their win here as Greg Zuerlein levelled it up at 31-apiece with a 52-yard field goal with two-and-a-half minutes to go. LA had left enough time for Garoppolo & Co. though and for the second time in three weeks they went on a late drive that culminated in Gould converting a game-winning field goal.

Week 17: 49ers 26 Seattle Seahawks 21

That late winner against the Rams meant it was winner-takes-all in the season finale. Seattle’s victory earlier in the season meant that they would win the NFC West courtesy of the head-to-head if they were victorious here, while a win for San Francisco would sew up the number one seeding and homefield advantage. Unsurprisingly, this one went right down to the wire. Trailing 26-21 with less than 150 seconds to go, Seattle were given one last chance to rip the division crown away from their rivals, and Russell Wilson was able to guide them all the way down to the one-yard line before a major screw-up resulted in a delay of game penalty that forced them back to the five. Wilson hit Jacob Hollister moments later on fourth down, but Dre Greenlaw made a game-winning tackle just inches from the goalline as the 49ers escaped with the win, the NFC West crown and homefield advantage for the playoffs.

Divisional Round: 49ers 27 Minnesota Vikings 10

San Francisco were back in the postseason and they ensured it would not be ‘one and done’ for them as they sent Minnesota packing. The Vikings did manage a first-quarter touchdown through Stefon Diggs, but that outstanding San Francisco defense soon shut down Kirk Cousins & Co, holding the visitors to just 21 yards rushing and 147 total yards while forcing a turnovers. The final score did not suggest ‘blowout’, but that was what this game was.

NFC Championship Game: 49ers 37 Green Bay Packers 20

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) dives into the endzone for one of his four touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay (Photo by USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images).

That dominant win over Minnesota set up another postseason showdown with NFC North opposition, this time in the form of Green Bay. The Packers had, of course, been humiliated at Levi’s Stadium earlier in the season, but they had not lost a game since then so there was hope that they would be a lot more competitive this time around. They were not. Raheem Mostert ran over Green Bay for 220 yards and four touchdowns, and that incredible performance, capped with another dominant defensive showing, meant Garoppolo only threw the ball eight times in the entire game. The NFC Championship Game was a walk in the park for the NIners, who are now just one win away from lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the sixth time.

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