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Is the Niners defense elite? Not without a championship

Rick Stroud | The 49ers allowed the Chiefs to score three touchdowns in the final six minutes of Super Bowl 54. That is not elite.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt (29) during the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. [ADAM HUNGER  |  AP]
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt (29) during the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. [ADAM HUNGER | AP]
Published Feb. 3
Updated Feb. 4

MIAMI GARDENS ― John Lynch was a member of the Bucs defense that was among the best in the NFL for nearly a decade.

But he’ll tell you, that validation could only come by winning championships.

“We were told until we won a Super Bowl, we weren’t going to be considered one of the elite defenses,’’ Lynch said.

When the Chiefs faced third-and-15 in the fourth quarter and San Francisco trying to protect a 10-point lead, the 49ers should’ve closed the deal.

Stepped on their necks. Kick sand and bury them.

Instead, the 49ers allowed Patrick Mahomes to convert third-and-15, then catch fire and lead his team to three touchdowns in six minutes in the Chiefs 31-20 win in Super Bowl 54.

The 49ers had one final drive to score a touchdown, retake the lead and the trophy.

Unfortunately, Garoppollo didn’t look anything like Joe Montana or Steve Young or even Steve Bono.

“Those are the moments you dream of and everything,’’ Garoppollo said. “We got rolling on a right note and just couldn't finish it off. It is tough, but it has been a hell of a year with these guys. Everything we have been through from the very start, it is an incredible story.’’

After the Chiefs took the lead, the Niners had time to drive the football down and score a go-ahead touchdown but couldn’t move past midfield.

It was too late. The Chiefs were too explosive. Too confident they could score quickly.

“That team, that’s kind of how they’ve been all year,’’ 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said of the Chiefs. “They’re not a team that does it every drive. They get a little bit hot and cold. They can score very fast. That’s why there were two playoff games where they were cold to start and they were down, and then by halftime, they fixed it in both games. That’s how the team is. That team doesn’t do it every single drive, but it was a matter of time. They got a lot of plays. We didn’t convert those third downs in the fourth quarter. You don’t convert those third downs, you don’t get an explosive run, you don’t get too many chances."

How hard will it be for the Niners to get over this loss?

“It shouldn’t be a problem,’’ Shanahan said. “We’ll lick our wounds, and we’ll get over this. We’ll be fired up for next year. We have a lot of people coming back. We surprised a lot of people this year. We knew we had a good team. I’m very proud of the guys and how much better they got throughout this year. We get almost all of these guys back and plan on adding a few more. We’re going to rest a little bit and get over this some, but we will be very fired up for next year."

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