It’s not uncommon to see heads bowed in prayer during pivotal moments of an NFL game. But the heartbreaking NFC Championship game loss that saw the San Francisco 49ers fall 20-17 to the Los Angeles Rams resulted in more such reverence than usual at the packed bars and parklets of North Beach.
It was a rare opportunity to see the team reach its second Super Bowl in three years. But it wasn't to be.
Even as they celebrated the emergence of superstar wide receiver Deebo Samuel and a defense that became one of the league’s best, the Niners faithful seemed to recognize that their prospects ultimately rested on their quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who came into the game with a sore thumb, a shoulder injury and a reputation for erratic throws.
“The defense has kept us in it, but I’m afraid it’s going to all come down to Jimmy G.,” said Jim Mitchell, who was working the front door at North Beach sports bar The Boardroom.
There were reasons for hope. The Week 10 drubbing of the Rams at Levi’s Stadium, the Week 18 overtime nail-biter to earn them a spot in the playoffs and the 6-0 record that head coach Kyle Shanahan held over his friend and rival, Rams coach Sean McVay, heading into the championship game.
But ultimately, the end of this Sunday’s game was all-too-familiar for Niner's fan who have followed the season and the travails of their starting quarterback.
One last drive to get to the Super Bowl. Garoppolo under pressure. A wild pass. An interception. And the feeling of a balloon slowly deflating on a miracle season.
In Los Angeles, the clock wound down and the Rams players celebrated on the field. In San Francisco, the bars emptied of crushed fans looking for their friends, looking for their Ubers and—heading to next season—looking for someone new behind center.
Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected]