Ever since Christian McCaffrey arrived in the Bay Area back in October, the 49ers were nearly perfect up until their heartbreaking NFC Championship loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
As the wild ride came to a disappointing end, the star running back reflected on the last three months.
“There’s a lot of emotions that come at you at once. I think obviously it’s disappointing and we wanted to be playing and have a shot to play in the Super Bowl,” McCaffrey told reporters postgame. “But at the same time, I’m unbelievably grateful for the way this team took me in in the middle of the year.
“It feels like a family in there. From the coaches and the ownership to the players, I’m grateful for everyone in that locker room.”
McCaffrey flew from North Carolina to Santa Clara on Oct. 21 after the 49ers completed a blockbuster trade for the 26-year-old. It was the Friday before a big game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He debuted his new jersey and went to 49ers practice.
Two days later, he suited up and took the field with his new team. San Francisco lost the game, but it didn’t take long for McCaffrey to get familiar with Kyle Shanahan’s playbook and make an immediate impact thereafter.
What followed were 10 consecutive wins to end the regular season at 13-4 and the NFC's No. 2 seed, along with two more in the playoffs to land in the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons and fight for a ticket to Super Bowl LVII -- with their third-string quarterback, who was the very last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
It was a storybook season that just didn’t go their way in the end. Nonetheless, McCaffrey remains thankful and excited for what’s to come.
“It was very special,” McCaffrey said. “I go back to just the practices when I first got here, I didn’t know a lot of people and [was] just observing. There’s a reason why that team has a shot every single year -- and I know why now.
“The fight that’s in the locker room is amazing. It’s unfortunate that it happened the way it did today, because I feel like all those guys deserve a real shot, we all do. But once again, this is a tough game and sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
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The loss stung the club, but there's no doubt they'll be back with a vengeance next season. And with McCaffrey in the mix at the start now, the 49ers' 2023 season shouldn't disappoint.