The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

49ers Historical 2023-24 Season

Kiana Guanga
Levi’s Stadium following the 49ers’ 24-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round.

The San Francisco 49ers concluded the 2023-24 regular season with a 12-5 record, clinching the #1 seed in the National Football Conference (NFC). 

The team kicked off the season on a high note. After going down with a UCL tear in the 2022 NFC Championship game, second-year quarterback Brock Purdy was cleared to return to play 20 days before the start of the 2023 season. The 49ers went on a five-game winning streak to begin the season – the longest since their 2019 Super Bowl season. The team lost to the Cleveland Browns in week 6, breaking their streak, and went on to lose the two following games heading into their BYE week. Coming off of the BYE, the 49ers regained momentum and went on a six-game winning streak, soon becoming the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. The team earned the #1 seed in the NFC, giving them a first-round BYE and putting them two games away from competing in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers had home-field advantage for all of their playoff matchups for the first time since 2019. The team hosted the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, coming out victorious by a slim three-point margin. The team advanced to the NFC Championship to take on the Detroit Lions. Fans knew that the Lions would be a tough opponent – they were only one win away from competing in the Super Bowl, which would be their first appearance in franchise history. By halftime, the Lions were up 24-7, concerning 49ers fans. Ken Guanga, a 49ers season ticket holder who was in attendance at the championship game, described the atmosphere at halftime: “Everyone was nervous. All the Lions fans were already taunting us at that point.” Guanga continued, “The music group Journey performed their song ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, and I knew that that was the mindset we had to have for the rest of the game.” Coming out of the locker room, a spark was lit in the 49ers, as in a blink of an eye, they went on a 17-0 run and tied the score by the end of the quarter. The 49ers outscored the Lions 10-7 in the final quarter, bringing the final score to 24-21 and earning their ticket to Super Bowl LVIII.

On the biggest stage of the season, the 49ers started off strong. The defense held the two-time champion Quarterback Patrick Mahomes to 64 yards and sacked him three times in the first half. On the Chiefs’ first nine drives, they had only scored 6 points. However, the 49ers suffered a defensive breakdown in the second half and overtime, allowing their opponent to come back from a 10-3 deficit by the end of the third quarter. After a back-and-forth matchup with five lead changes, the Chiefs achieved their first back-to-back Super Bowl victory after scoring a touchdown in overtime, while the 49ers only converted for a field goal.

Despite the team’s “stacked” roster, the 49ers failed to complete their quest for their sixth Super Bowl title. Many fans attribute this to two main reasons – injuries and poor coaching.

Throughout the regular season, the 49ers suffered very few injuries in comparison to seasons prior. However, heading into the postseason, the team saw some of their key players go down with injuries. Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel, a key in the team’s offensive game, was ruled out during the divisional round against the Packers. Coming off of a rocky 2022 season, the wide receiver redeemed himself and finished the 2023 season with 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. During the Super Bowl, Defensive Linebacker Dre Greenlaw suffered a torn left Achilles injury when running onto the field in the second quarter. Losing Greenlaw, one of the team’s defensive stars, provided less defensive coverage on the Chiefs’ #1 ranked offense. Injuries to key players hurt the 49ers on both the offensive and defensive sides when they were needed most.

Poor coaching, mainly of the defensive unit, was another component that prevented the 49ers from living up to their true potential. Losing former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was a big hit, as under Ryans in the 2022 season, the 49ers were ranked the #1 defense in the league and Ryans earned the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award. Ryans was hired as the head coach with the Houston Texans in the 2022 offseason, forcing the 49ers to desperately search for another defensive coordinator.

The 49ers ultimately hired former Carolina Panthers head coach Steve Wilks to replace Ryans. Throughout the season, the team failed to live up to the level they defended at the previous season. The 49ers still had all of their defensive weapons from the previous season – such as Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Dre Greenlaw —  but the issue revolved around how they were utilized. Last season, the team let their opponent convert on 3rd down on only 38% of attempts, the 13th-lowest percentage in the league. This season, however, the 49ers let their opponent convert on 42% of 3rd downs — which is not a drastic increase but it brought them down to the 27th spot on the league leaderboard. By the end of the 2023 season, the 49ers fell from the #1 to the #8 ranked defense. Wilks was fired after just one season with San Francisco. 

In Super Bowl LVIII, the 49ers defense allowed Mahomes to throw for 210 yards and run 59 yards in the second half alone. The Chiefs scored 22 points in the second half and overtime and won with a wide-open catch in the end zone by Receiver Mecole Hardman. The 49ers’ defensive breakdown cost them a victory that would have had its place in franchise history books.

Despite the poor ending to the 49ers’ historic Super Bowl run, the team had a multitude of achievements. The 49ers scored 491 points – the second most of all-time – and 11 different players scored a touchdown in the regular season. Quarterback Brock Purdy gained more confidence in his running game, going from 13 rushing yards in the 2022 season to 144 in the 2023 season. Running Back Christian McCaffrey, who led the league in rushing yards with 1459, was awarded the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. 

The 49ers had nine Pro Bowl selections, the most in the NFL and the most in franchise history since 2013. Because the Pro Bowl falls on the week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, the team could not play in the game.

Despite their disheartening elimination on the big stage, the 49ers rallied through the challenges they faced throughout the season, such as injuries and losing a skilled coach. The team hopes to navigate around such challenges in the 2024-25 season and earn their first title in three decades.

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