49ers eliminated from playoff contention with Cardinals' win

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers

The reigning NFC champions will vacate their crown.

The 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday after they lost to the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles, officially ending San Francisco's quest to repeat as NFC champions and take care of unfinished business in Super Bowl LV.

A year after ending the regular season as the conference's No. 1 seed, the 49ers will end this season on the outside looking in at the postseason.

Injuries to key players ultimately derailed the 49ers' conference title defense. Defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas sustained season-ending torn ACLs in Week 2. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel missed six games before being ruled out for the season heading into Week 15. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has missed eight games with two separate high-ankle sprains. All-Pro tight end George Kittle sustained multiple injuries and hasn't played since Week 8, while All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman missed nine games.

The 49ers managed to start 4-3 despite the early injuries, but a Week 8 defeat against the Seattle Seahawks marked a turning point. Not only were Garoppolo and Kittle injured again in the loss, but it marked the beginning of a three-game losing streak against NFC contenders. The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints both easily dispatched the 49ers, leaving them 4-6 heading into the bye week.

Back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Football Team, played in the 49ers' temporary new home in Glendale, Ariz. following Santa Clara County's ban on contact sports to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, practically extinguished the 49ers' faint playoff hopes. Sunday's loss combined with the Cardinals' win finished the job.

RELATED: Grades for 49ers' loss to Cowboys

Now, the 49ers turn their attention to a critical offseason. Forty players are eligible for some kind of free agency as the salary cap is set to drop due to revenue losses during the pandemic, potentially spelling the end of Sherman's 49ers tenure as well as others.

One player the 49ers expect to return, according to coach Kyle Shanahan, is Garoppolo. The 49ers would carry $2.8 million in dead money next season if he's cut or traded before June 1, and $1.4 million if he's cut or traded after. Garoppolo's $26.9 million cap number, as of this writing, is the 11th-highest at his position.