49ers

Emmanuel Sanders defends 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo for Super Bowl overthrow

49ers

It's one of the biggest "what-if" plays in NFL history, one that 49ers fans wish they could forget. That's not how this works, though. 

Even when being interviewed about joining his new team, the New Orleans Saints, Emmanuel Sanders can't escape the question. What if Jimmy Garoppolo didn't overthrow him in the 49ers' 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV?

"It is what it is," Sanders said Tuesday morning when asked about that exact play of ESPN's "First Take." "It's crazy, when I walk in the airport -- me and Jimmy on that play, that could have been a legendary moment for the both of us. But at the same time, I believe in destiny and it just didn't happen."

With the 49ers down 24-20 on 3rd-and-10 and only 1:40 remaining, Sanders out-ran the defense and was open just yards away from the end zone. Instead of hitting him in stride, however, Garoppolo threw the ball too far for the receiver's outstretched arms.

Garoppolo was sacked on the next play and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs. Sanders looked back at a win earlier in the year against the Los Angeles Rams to show that he and Jimmy G have connected before on that very same play. 

"It was the fourth quarter and a third down and we completed that pass," Sanders said. "It just happens." 

 

There's no doubt Sanders was devastated after the 49ers' loss in the Super Bowl. Garoppolo took off once San Francisco acquired the veteran receiver in a trade with the Denver Broncos, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy was in their grasp. 

But months later Sanders says he hasn't even thought about the missed opportunity. 

"I'm being honest when I tell you I don't even think about that play anymore, because it is what it is," Sanders said. "It just wasn't meant for us. That goes credit to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was their time and it just wasn't our time, and it just didn't happen.

"It wasn't supposed to happen for us, and that's just how I look at it. That's the only way you can look at it."

[RELATED: How Sanders left his mark on the 49ers' young receivers]

Garoppolo and Sanders won't have a chance to run it back. Sanders signed a two-year contract with the Saints this offseason, but, unprompted, he still defended his former QB who has been a scapegoat ever since the Super Bowl loss. 

"That's not fair because this guy made several throws down the stretch. And this guy made several plays to even get us in that position," Sanders said of Garoppolo. "So at the end of the day it's one play and I expect Jimmy to be the baller he's been all last year and the same this year.

"Hopefully we see those guys in the NFC championship."