49ers

Super Bowl is 49ers' to lose after Titans' NFL playoff upset of Ravens

Super Bowl is 49ers' to lose after Titans' NFL playoff upset of Ravens

The rematch has been circled since Week 13, when Justin Tucker's field goal sailed through the uprights to give the Baltimore Ravens a 20-17 rain-soaked win over the 49ers.

We'll see you in Miami, they both thought. They were, after all, the two best teams in the NFL. Both would secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. Flights from Charm City and the Bay to South Beach already were being booked.

But no one counted on the Tennessee Titans.

Mike Vrabel's merry band of hard-hitting, blue-collar football guys went into Foxboro in the wild-card round and pummeled the New England Patriots into submission. No matter. Surely, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens would run over the Cinderella Titans. Their stay in the NFL playoffs would end Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in the divisional round.

But -- as they say -- that is why they play the game.

The Titans showed up to Baltimore and hit the Ravens in the mouth early. The clearly rusty Ravens -- who hadn't played a real game in three weeks -- never recovered, as the Titans secured a 28-12 upset win to punch their ticket to the AFC Championship Game.

Gone is the dream rematch of 49ers-Ravens.

But also gone is the 49ers' biggest impediment to their sixth Super Bowl title.

The Ravens long had been seen as the favorites to win the Super Bowl title. They had won 12 straight games heading into the playoffs, hadn't trailed at halftime since Week 4, and boasted the league's most-feared offense led by the presumptive MVP in Jackson.

With Lamar out of the way -- along with Drew Brees and Tom Brady -- the Niners are the best team left standing.

As shown by the Titans' stunning upset of the Ravens, the 49ers still will have to earn it on the field. Championships handed out in odds and predictions don't earn you parades.

The 49ers checked one box Saturday, when they ground the Minnesota Vikings into dust at Levi's Stadium, courtesy of a 27-10 win. Next up: Either the Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks will make the voyage to Santa Clara next Sunday for the NFC Championship Game.

Back in Week 12, the 49ers beat up the Packers, pulled their underwear over their heads and stole their lunch money in a 37-8 win. The 49ers and the Seahawks have played two instant classics, with each team grabbing a win on opposing turf.

[RELATED: Sherman takes victory lap after 49ers' playoff win]

The 49ers' defense is fully healthy and back to terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. If they can protect home field next Sunday, they'll fly to Miami to face either the Titans, Houston Texans or Kansas City Chiefs, any of which the 49ers should be favored against and have the personnel to combat what each opponent likes to do.

The MVP is dead, and so are the Ravens.

The Super Bowl should be the 49ers' for the taking.

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Before the 49ers officially had lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs, tight end George Kittle was already preaching they would be back next year.

But it didn't stop with him.

49ers players throughout the roster already are thinking of everything they can do to make another run at it, and that includes bringing back free-agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel made it clear Wednesday on Twitter that he wants to see the 49ers bring back the 32-year-old veteran.

Sanders showed his appreciation later Wednesday morning.

After coming over from the Denver Broncos via trade in October, Sanders excelled with the 49ers. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, and added five receptions for 71 yards in the postseason.

But Sanders could have been an even more critical part of 49ers lore, had it not been for Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrown pass with less than two minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV. But it was not meant to be.

Sanders has been open about his love for the team that had just barely missed the championship and has spoken out about those second-guessing him due to his age. 

The receiver laughed at the fact that he has been "flying past 23-year-olds," and exhorted that he still has plenty of good years left in him.

[RELATED: Sanders offers advice to teammates playing in first Super Bowl]

He also embraced the youth the other wide receivers brought to the team, such as Samuel and Kendrick Bourne. Sanders loved the loose vibes of the 49ers' locker room and assisted the younger players in prepping for the big moments of the Super Bowl. 

Deebo surely noticed that and knows he wants his teammate back for the team's quest to make another Super Bowl run next season.

Jeff Wilson Jr. explains why 49ers' running backs are egoless, tight knit

Jeff Wilson Jr. explains why 49ers' running backs are egoless, tight knit

The 49ers found the perfect answer for a running back by committee approach in 2019. There wasn't one star in the rotation, yet they had the second-most rushing yards in the NFL with 2,305. 

They all have the same thing in common: At one point or another, each of San Francisco's running backs have been counted out. They all have an underdog's mentality. And yet, they're all extremely unselfish. 

"In our room, if you check our pasts, all of us have a similar background," 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. said Wednesday morning to Steve Wyche on NFL Network's "NFL All Access." "We all come from an undrafted past where we had to take the back road. And all that helps us because we know what each other's going through. If one person's going through it, then one person's been through it.

"And for me, I'm just now entering into it. All those guys have been through the same similar situations, so we feed off each other. I feel like that alone has helped our bond to become stronger." 

Wilson went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers' leading rusher, went undrafted in the 2015 draft. Same goes with Matt Breida in 2017. 

Tevin Coleman (third round in 2015) and Jerick McKinnon (third round in 2014) were the only running backs in the 49ers' film room who once were drafted. McKinnon has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries, but Wilson still mentioned him among the group. 

Wilson played in 10 regular-season games in 2019 and rushed for only 105 yards, however, he scored four rushing touchdowns, good for third on the team. He also scored one receiving touchdown, and had a 20-yard reception in the 49ers' Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. 

[RELATED: 49ers have solid running backs, but group lacks something]

While Wilson is a part of a deep running back group, he's using a message from Mostert to stay motivated. Mostert took him to breakfast when Wilson first joined the 49ers and told his younger teammate, "It's gonna be a long road. You just gotta keep your head down and know what you're capable of on the inside and never let nobody deter you from that, and you'll be fine."

That seems to be the message throughout the 49ers' running backs. So far, the perseverance has paid off for this group.