Emmanuel Sanders and Jimmy Garoppolo could have been heroes in Super Bowl LIV. If Garoppolo hits a wide-open Sanders on a post route late in the fourth quarter, it's a 49-yard touchdown and the 49ers have the lead with under two minutes to play.
But the pass sailed long, Garoppolo was sacked on fourth down and the Kansas City Chiefs took home a 31-20 win.
Sanders, who signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency, couldn't hide his disgust after the game. It's a missed opportunity that continues to haunt him.
"I don't know if it's a situation I'll ever get over," Sanders said Thursday on FS1's "First Things First." "At the end of the day, it is what it is. It's nothing I can control, you kind of got to let it go."
"I would be lying to you if I haven't been out on the football field and told a quarterback to give me a post route and simulated me catching it and running into the end zone, envisioning scoring that game-winning touchdown," Sanders said. "That right there could have been a legendary moment for me and Jimmy, but unfortunately it didn't happen. Instead of walking into airports and stores and people saying, 'Great catch, man. You're a legend.' Now they say, 'Aw man, you were this close.' Hopefully I don't go down as 'this close,' and hopefully we can change that this year. That's a play that will forever be in my mind."
That overthrow has only fueled Garoppolo's critics who have spent all offseason debating whether or not the 49ers should replace him with a different signal-caller.
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan both have openly talked about the 49ers' discussions surrounding Tom Brady. They chose to stick with Garoppolo, but their openness about the Brady pursuit puts the pressure squarely on Garoppolo to perform at a high level in 2020.
They believe he's the guy, but if there's not marked improvement in noted areas, the 49ers might have to re-evaluate their situation at quarterback.
As for Sanders, the veteran wide receiver almost etched himself alongside Dwight Clark in franchise lore.
But Garoppolo's pass sailed, and now Sanders is looking to derail his old teammates' revenge tour and find Super Bowl glory with the Saints.
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