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

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

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."

If Derrick Brown drops to No. 13, 49ers could pounce on defensive star

If Derrick Brown drops to No. 13, 49ers could pounce on defensive star

NBC Sports Bay Area will preview the NFL Draft with a look at the 49ers’ top needs, profiles of prospects that might fit their needs, along with some hidden gems. In this installment we profile Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown.

It will be nearly impossible for the 49ers to replace DeForest Buckner with just one player.

But Derrick Brown of Auburn might not be a bad place to start.

However, there is only an outside chance that Brown will make it out of the top-10 in the NFL Draft. The 49ers own the No. 13 overall selection, which they acquired in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts for Buckner.

Brown is widely considered the top defensive tackle in the draft, though he grew accustomed to playing every position along the Auburn defensive line during his four-year career.

“It was very beneficial,” Brown said at the NFL Scouting Combine of his ability to play multiple positions. “Being coached in the system, we didn’t really have (set) positions. We played all the way from the zero to the five, and coach mentioned we had to be versatile at every position.

“A lot of teams say they don’t even scout for defensive tackles or nose guards no more. They scout for D-linemen. They want to find guys that can play the positions across the board.”

Listen and subscribe to the 49ers Insider Podcast:

Brown started the final 40 games of his college career over his final three seasons. As a senior, he registed 55 tackles, four sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss and was selected as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

He was also the winner of the 2019 Lott IMPACT Trophy, named after Ronnie Lott that goes to the defensive player who has the biggest IMPACT on his team. IMPACT stands for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

He made a huge impact on the field with his brute force in the run game. He has plenty of room to grow as a pass-rusher, too.

When asked to describe his biggest asset, he answered, “I think just being able to knock back the line of scrimmage and create pressure that way, but also be able to play the run and create that knock back."

[RELATED: DeForest Buckner trade could make 49ers add D-lineman]

NFL draft profile: Derrick Brown

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 326 pounds
College: Auburn
Career stats: 170 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, eight passes defensed.

Combine measurables
40-yard dash: 5.16 seconds
Vertical jump: 27.0 inches
Broad jump: 108.0 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.79

What experts are saying
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: “Derrick Brown is an unbelievable talent. I circled him in just about every game I saw. It was Derrick Brown, Derrick Brown, Derrick Brown. He is a guy that definitely jumped off the page.”
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Media: " Brown has excellent size, power and athleticism for the defensive tackle position. As a pass rusher, he has a quick first step and uses his hands very effectively. Against the run, he easily holds the point of attack. Overall, this is a complete player capable of dominating on all three downs. He'll be a difference maker on Day 1.”
Josh Norris, NBC Sports: "Massive interior disruptor who constantly worked through his blocker at the college level. It’s like Brown’s target is always the quarterback and the blocker is just an inconvenience.”
Lance Zierlein, NFL Media: "Defensive tackle with rare combination of size and disruptive traits who frequently bludgeoned inferior competition across from him. He has the ability to power into gaps, but he really shines when he drops his anchor to stall double-teams or punch, press and prey on runners as a two-gapper. He could become a high-impact starter early in his career with an All-Pro ceiling and good starter floor.”

Draft projection: First round (top 15 overall)

49ers safety Jake Thieneman teams with non-profit to make ventilators

49ers safety Jake Thieneman teams with non-profit to make ventilators

A year ago, safety Jake Thieneman placed himself on the radars of prospective NFL teams with a strong showing during his pro day at Purdue.

Now, as a member of the 49ers, he is sheltering-in-place and working out in the basement of his parents’ home in Carmel, Indiana. He also is trying to do his part to lend assistance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has shut down the sporting world -- not to mention normal life.

Thieneman teamed up with Boston-based The Ventilator Project, a quickly organized non-profit that plans to produce up to 60,000 low-cost ventilators a month while fears continue that there are not enough of the devices to meet the demands.

“There will always be a need for ventilators,” Thieneman told NBC Sports Bay Area. “There’s constantly a need. Globally, there’s an even bigger need.

“Ventilator shortages are not just a unique problem during this time, during COVID-19. Globally, there’s a need for ventilators in developing countries.”

Thieneman entered the NFL last year as an undrafted rookie. He initially signed with the New York Giants, then spent time with the Indianapolis Colts during training camp. The 49ers signed him to their practice squad in mid-December.

Thieneman remained with the 49ers through their run to the Super Bowl. Then, the club signed him to their 90-man offseason roster immediately following the season.

Thieneman, a mechanical engineering major, is splitting his time between preparing himself for whenever the NFL opens its doors and doing his part to lend assistance during the pandemic.

Listen and subscribe to the 49ers Insider Podcast:

Alex Frost, founder of FloraBot, and Tyler Mantel, founder of Watertower Robotics, co-founded The Ventilator Project on March 20. Thieneman got involved through Mantel’s brother, a close friend from his time at Purdue.

Thieneman’s role is to provide publicity and help in the fund-raising for the project. Three days after the plan was hatched, the project had 15 engineers helping with the design of the ventilators, he said. Now, there are approximately 200 individuals working on the task.

The goal is for the non-profit organization to deliver ventilators as quickly as possible to meet the needs of COVID-19 patients in the United States and around the world.

A hospital-grade ventilator can cost up to $50,000. The Ventilator Project aims to provide the essentials without the unnecessary accessories and for just a fraction of the cost. The expectation is to provide ventilators that cost no more than $2,000 apiece.

“From the start, it was designed to be entirely sourced with parts that are not currently in the medical supply industry so that we’re not taking away medical supplies that hospitals and other networks need,” Thieneman said.

The Ventilator Project will use materials that are readily available and can go to manufacturing quickly, he said.

“Currently, we have a working prototype that is fully functional,” Thieneman said. “We’re going through the FDA approval process right now.

“We expect, after FDA approval, to be able to produce 1,000 units in the first month, then hopefully scale up to 60,000 a month after that.”

[RELATED: 49ers, Sharks games not expected before November, health official says]

The initial fundraising goal is $100,000, Thieneman said, which would get the project through FDA approval and the first 1,000 units. Then, as the production increases so will the costs.

“We’ll need additional funds so we can scale up our manufacturing to full scale,” Thieneman said.

For more information on the non-profit organization and to make a donation, visit their website: TheVentilatorProject.org.