Thursday, January 16, 2014

49ers: NFC Championship Game History

The San Francisco 49ers are about to play in their 15th NFC Championship.  Its their 3rd straight NFC Championship game, the third time they have played in 3 consecutive NFL semifinals in their history.  Of the 15 times the 49ers have made it, only twice (1981, 1997) did they make the NFC Championship without playing it in the year before or reaching it the year after.  Since the playoffs take place in the following calendar year, we'll denote each 49ers appearance by the regular season's calendar year.  ( For instance, the 49ers are about to play in the 2013NFC Championship).  The years in which the 49ers were victorious are in bold.

Dallas Cowboys 17 - SF 49ers 10
Kezar Stadium (SF)

Dallas Cowboys 14 - SF 49ers 3
Texas Stadium

SF 49ers 28 - Dallas Cowboys 27
Candlestick Park

Washington Redskins 24 - SF 49ers 21
RFK Stadium

SF 49ers 23 - Chicago Bears 0
Candlestick Park

SF 49ers 28 - Chicago Bears 3
Soldier Field

SF 49ers 30 - Los Angeles Rams 3
Candlestick Park

New York Giants 15 - SF 49ers 13
Candlestick Park

Dallas Cowboys 30 - SF 49ers 20
Candlestick Park

Dallas Cowboys 38 - SF 49ers 21
Texas Stadium

SF 49ers 38 - Dallas Cowboys 28
Candlestick Park

Green Bay Packers 23 - SF 49ers 10
Candlestick Park

New York Giants 20 - SF 49ers 17
Candlestick Park

SF 49ers 28 - Atlanta Falcons 24
Georgia Dome

SF 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field

Random Observations:

- In our 14 previous conference championship games, we have won 6 and lost 8.  Starting with the Walsh dynasty, which is really the 49ers that I know, they've actually been 6-6.  Walsh himself was 3-1.

- From 1981 to 1997, we played in 10 of the 17 NFC Championship games.  Considering our sustained excellence over 17 years, the fact that there was a 13 year absence is quite sad.

- SF has now surpassed Dallas in having the most NFC appearances and also tied Pittsburgh with conference championship appearances with 15.

- Of the 13 previous games, we've played Dallas 6 times, more than any other team, winning only twice.

- The 49ers have hosted 9 NFC Championships, far and away the most by any team.  Dallas and Washington have each hosted 5.

- Our record at home in this game is 4-5.  (4-4 at Candlestick Park since our 1st NFC champ game was played at Kezar Stadium.)

- The 1981 game against Dallas featured Montana-Clark's "The Catch", which jump-started the Walsh dynasty.

- The sweetest NFC championship win was the 1994 game over Dallas.  It was the 3rd consecutive meeting between these rivals in the NFC Championship, with SF coming up short both times before in '93 and '92.  The 49ers also disappointingly missed the '91 playoffs (even with a 10 win season).  As for 1990....  

- The most bitter NFC championship loss was the 1990 game where our hopes of an unprecedented Superbowl 3-peat was abruptly ended by the Giants in a 2 point loss.  This was the last playoff game Montana played for the 49ers.

- The 1997 loss to GB was just about as painful because the Packers had ended our postseason 3 consecutive years ('95, '96, '97 - which is clearly why TO's '98 "The Catch II" to beat the Packers was so cathartic).  If anyone was writing the storybook properly, we were supposed to finally prevail in 1997 (or at least in '98) and win the SB, just as the '94 49ers defeated the Cowboys on the 3rd try.

- Our record on the road is 2-3, with victories at Soldier Field in 1988 and at the Georgia Dome last season.  We lost at Texas Stadium twice and RFK once.

- Harbaugh's 49ers came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Falcons last year 28-24.  He is now the only coach to advance to the NFL semifinals each of his first 3 seasons.

- Kaepernick's road record in this game is obviously 1-0.  Montana was 1-1 on the road (3-1 at home).  Young was 0-1 on the road, (1-3 at home).

- This is only the 2nd time that the 49ers will play a fellow NFC West opponent.  In the '89 season, we pounded the Rams 30-3.

- This will be only Seattle's 2nd NFC Championship game.  They won their only visit in the 2005 season 34-14 over the Panthers.  Of course, they lost to Big Ben's Steelers in the Superbowl.

After we were punished by the Colts in Week 3, I was already resigned to the tall task of having to beat the Seahawks in Seattle to get back to the Superbowl.  Given Seattle's cake schedule and the feeling that our window closed when Kaepernick's pass sailed over Crabtree's head on 4th down vs the Ravens, I should probably be ecstatic that we're back in the NFC Championship.

Seeing as we haven't been able to get within 3 touchdowns in our last two games there, it is a frightening prospect anyway you look at it.  However, there is a glimmer of hope, since Arizona beat them in Week 16 and their offense has been off for the past few games.  (Wilson only completed 9 passes for 103 yards last week.)  As for the 9ers, they've emerged unscathed and as the most balanced team from the gauntlet of a -10 degree wind chill weather in Lambeau and a tough D in Carolina.

But clearly, this will be the toughest test.  For the 9ers to win, Willis/Bowman/Brooks need to contain Lynch (which the 49ers haven't proven they can do) and pressure Russell with just our 4 man front.  On offense, no turnovers can be allowed and Gore needs to at least have an effective day.  I can't actually make an objective prediction due to my intense hatred of the Seagulls, so here's hoping we get an early turnover or two and jump out to a 17 point lead.  We'll finish off the clock with a heavy dosage of Gore/Hunter and win 31-17.

Monday, January 13, 2014

3 Consecutive Conference Championship Appearances List

1970-73 Dallas Cowboys, 2-2 (won SB in 1971 NFL season)
1974-76 Los Angeles Rams, 0-3
1980-82 Dallas Cowboys, 0-3
1988-91 San Francisco 49ers, 2-1 (won SB '88, '89)
1992-95 Dallas Cowboys, 3-1 (won SB '92, '93, '95)
1992-94 San Francisco 49ers, 1-2 (won SB '93)
1995-97 Green Bay Packers, 2-1 (won SB '96)
2001-04 Philadelphia Eagles, 1-3
2011-13 San Francisco 49ers, 1-1, TBD

1971-73 Miami Dolphins, 3-0 (won SB '72, '73)
1973-77 Oakland Raiders 1-4 (won SB '76)
1974-76 Pittsburgh Steelers 2-1 (won SB '74, '75)
1990-93 Buffalo Bills 4-0
2011-13 New England Patriots 1-1, TBD

- The balance of power was clearly with the AFC in the '70s, with the NFC in the '80s and '90s, and nonexistent in the 2000's.

- 14 times, including this season's Patriots and 49ers, a team has advanced to at least 3 consecutive Conference championships.  9 times in the NFC, 5 times in the AFC.

- 4 of those times, a team made it to 4 consecutive conference championships - Dallas '70-'73, Buffalo '90-'93, Dallas '92-'95, Philadelphia '01-'04.

- 1 team earned 5 consecutive trips - Oakland '73-'77, but only advanced to the SB once.

- The 49ers and Cowboys are the only two organizations that have had multiple conference championship streaks.  Both have done it 3 times.

- The Dolphins and the Bills are the only two teams that never suffered a loss during their conference championship streaks.  Of course, sadly, the Bills never won a SB in 4 tries.

- In fact, including the Bills, there were 4 times where teams did not at least win the Superbowl at least once during their respective conference championship streaks.

- Also, only 4 times did an organization win multiple SBs during their conference championship streak.  Let's not be the 5th.  Hopefully that'll be the Belicheats.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

49ers Division Round Playoff History

1949 - NY Yankees @ SF, Won 17-7 (AAFC)
1957 - Detroit @ SF, Lost 31-27
1970 - SF @ Minnesota, Won 17-14
1971 - Washington @ SF, Won 24-20
1972 - Dallas @ SF, Lost 30-28
1981 - NY Giants @ SF, Won 38-24
1983 - Detroit @ SF, Won 24-23
1984 - NY Giants @ SF, Won 21-10
1986 - SF @ NY Giants, Lost 49-3
1987 - Minnesota @ SF, Lost 36-24
1988 - Minnesota @ SF, Won 34-9
1989 - Minnesota @ SF, Won 41-13
1990 - Washington @ SF, Won 28-10
1992 - Washington @ SF, Won 20-13
1993 - NY Giants @ SF, Won 44-3
1994 - Chicago @ SF, Won 44-15
1995 - Green Bay @ SF, Lost 27-17
1996 - SF @ Green Bay, Lost 35-14
1997 - Minnesota @ SF, Won 38-22
1998 - SF @ Atlanta, Lost 20-18
2002 - SF @ Tampa Bay, Lost 31-6
2011 - New Orleans @ SF, Won 36-32
2012 - Green Bay @ SF, Won 45-31
2013 - SF @ Carolina

- 49ers have played in 22 divisional playoff games and have a 14-8 record.  Their 1949 AAFC playoff game is not counted here.

- They played the Vikings 5 times (4-1), Giants 4 times (3-1), Redskins 3 times (3-0), Packers 3 times (1-2), Lions twice (1-1),  Bears once (W), Saints once (W), Falcons once (L), Buccaneers once (L) and Dallas surprisingly only once (L)

- 17 of the Divisional playoff games were played at home.  They went 13-4.

- On the road, the 49ers were 1-4.  That doesn't bode well for us vs Panthers.

- In the 17 years stretch from 1981-1998, the 49ers played in an unbelievable 15 divisional round playoff games.

- In the 31 years preceding 1981 ('50-'81), they only reached this round 4 times.

- In the 16 years since 1998, the 49ers reached this round another 4 times, including this year.

- Harbaugh has reached this round in all 3 years of his NFL coaching career.

Facing the Carolina Panthers

The 49ers have never faced the Panthers in the playoffs and are actually 7-11 against them all-time.  SF is winless in the last 4 games against them, including the 10-9 ugly loss earlier this season at Candlestick.  In that game, Vernon Davis was lost to concussion and Crabtree had not yet returned.  The Panthers basically doubled Boldin and stacked the box to stop our run.  Now in the playoffs, Kaepernick is clearly allowed to tuck and run whenever he wants, adding a 3rd dimension to the attack, which turned out to be the x-factor vs the Packers.

Among the issues the 49ers need to address, is the ridiculous use of timeouts, especially early in the 2nd half.  Does Kaepernick not understand that losing 5 yards on 1st down in the 3rd quarter is worth saving a timeout for?  Not having our timeouts cost us in the Superbowl, and I'm afraid we still haven't learned our lesson.  Speaking of Kaep, I'd also like to see him tuck the ball when he's running.

Our redzone offense can be a bit frustrating as well.  Against the Pack, we could have been up 21-0, and against our defense, the game would have been over.  Settling for field goals won't cut it against the Seattle Seagulls.  Prediction: 24-16, 49ers win.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

49ers Wildcard History

Since 1978 when the NFL implemented the initial Wildcard round, the 49ers have played just 5 wildcard games, winning 3 of them.  It is worth noting that they have made the playoffs 21 times (including this year) during this wildcard age, but have only been forced to play the opening weekend 6 times.  The most memorable is the cathartic 1998 "The Catch II" game, when Young and TO ended the Packer dominance.  Also notable was the 2002 game with NY in which the 9ers scored the last 25 points to snatch a comeback win.  Its interesting that of these 6 games, we will have faced the Giants twice and the Packers 3 times.

49ers' Wildcard Games

1985 - SF at NY Giants - Lost 17-3

1996 - Philadelphia Eagles at SF - Won 14-0

1998 - Green Bay Packers at SF - Won 30-27 - TO's "The Catch II"

2001 - SF at Green Bay Packers - Lost 25-15

2002 - NY Giants at SF - Won 39-38 - 25 straight points in comeback W.

2013 - SF at Green Bay Packers

Wildcard teams that won Superbowl 

I was curious to know how many wildcard teams have ever won a Superbowl.  The answer is that in the 34 seasons from 1978-2012, only wildcard 6 teams have won it (out of 10 who even reached the SB).  Interestingly, there were only 3 wildcard champs from '78-'04 (26 years) but then 3 occurred in a 6 year span.  To make matters worse, only 3 of those wildcard teams played all conference games on the road.  By happenstance, they are the recent 3 teams as well.  You better believe I'll latch onto that glimmer of hope.

1980 Raiders - played wildcard game at home.
1998 Broncos- played wildcard game at home.
2000 Ravens- played wildcard game at home.
2005 Steelers - played all 3 conference games on road.
2007 Giants - played all 3 conference games on road.
2010 Packers - played all 3 conference games on road.

Playoff History vs Packers
Since we're playing GB again, here's our playoff history against them.

1995 Divisional Round - Lost 27-17 in Candlestick - Down 21-0.
1996 Divisional Round - Lost 35-14 at Lambeau - Down 21-0 to start again.
1997 Conference Round - Lost 23-10 in Candlestick - Down 23-3 before late kick return.
1998 Wild Card Round - Won 30-27 in Candlestick - TO's "The Catch II".
2001 Wild Card Round - Lost 25-15 at Lambeau - GB scores last 10 points.
2012 Divisional Round - Won 45-31 in Candlestick - Kaep's 181 rush yards is QB playoff record.
2013 Wild Card Round - at Lambeau

I'm still ticked that the 49ers won 12 games (more than last season!) and has to travel to an 8-win Packer team.  On Sunday, we were a Seattle loss away from a 1st round bye and 1 home game, but now we have to travel for 3 straight games to make the Superbowl.  That variation shouldn't be so extreme.  Winning your division should guarantee a playoff spot, but not necessarily a home game.  Now that they have Rodgers back, they are extremely dangerous, especially in the confines of freezing Lambeau.  Things are just not going the 9ers way this season.