Kyle Shanahan Super Bowl LIV. Despite holding a 20-10 lead with half a quarter remaining, Shanahan's 49ers surrendered 21 unanswered points to MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who won their first Super Bowl in 50 years while keeping the 49ers at five Super Bowl wins in the process. Shanahan, who lost Super Bowl LI as a member of the Falcons' coaching staff, does not believe it will be hard for his team to rebound from Sunday's loss.the day following his team's loss in
"[Bouncing back] shouldn't be a problem," Shanahan told media after the game, via Pro Football Talk. "We'll lick our wounds, we'll get over this. We'll be fired up for next year. We got a lot of people coming back.
"I think we surprised a lot of people this year. We knew we had a really good team. I'm very proud of the guys and how much better they got throughout this year, and I expect to get almost all of these guys back and plan on adding a few more.
"We're going to rest a little bit, get over this, but we'll be very fired up for next year."
History suggests that the 49ers' road back to the Super Bowl may be daunting. Only eight teams in NFL history -- the 1971 Cowboys, '72 Dolphins, the '73 Vikings, the '87 Broncos, the 1991-93 Bills and the 2018 Patriots -- have returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing the Big Game. And out of those teams, only the '71 Cowboys, '72 Dolphins and '18 Patriots were able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy a year after being on the short end of the Super Bowl scoreboard.
While getting back to the Super Bowl has proven to be a daunting task for the Super Bowl runner-up, simply making it back to the playoffs is also not a guarantee, as several recent runner-ups have failed to qualify for the postseason the year after playing in the Big Game.
Here's a look at how the previous 10 Super Bowl runner-ups fared during the following season.
The 2010 Colts
After winning 14 regular season games en route to an appearance in Super Bowl XLIV, the Colts slipped to a 10-6 record in 2010. While the Colts' offense, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, was even better in '10 than it was in '09, the Colts' defense was in rapid decline, as they went from 8th to 23rd in total defense. Indianapolis was particularly bad against the run, ranking 25th in the league in that department during the regular season.
The Colts' issues against the run came to a head during the team's wild-card matchup with Rex Ryan's Jets. While the Indianapolis defense held the Jets to just 16 points, they were unable to contain Jets running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, who combined to rush for 152 yards on 35 carries while helping the Jets control the clock for over 33 minutes. Conversely, the Jets' defense held the Colts to under 100 yards rushing while also holding Manning to just 225 passing yards. After losing to the Colts the previous year in the AFC title game, the Jets left Indianapolis with a 17-16 win in what would be Manning's final game as a Colt.
Manning would miss the entire 2011 season with an injury, as the Colts won just two games before drafting Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.
The 2011 Steelers
Despite going 12-4, the Steelers, who fell to the Packers 31-25 in Super Bow LIV, had to play in the wild card round after finishing behind the Ravens in the AFC North division standings. Facing the 8-8 Broncos in the first round of the playoffs, the Steelers were famously defeated in overtime on Tim Tebow's 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The Steelers, who had appeared in three of the previous six Super Bowls, would miss the playoffs in 2012-13 before returning to the postseason in 2014.
While the Steelers boasted the league's top-ranked defense during the 2011 season, Pittsburgh's offense was just 21st in scoring. A late-season injury to Ben Roethlisberger also hurt Pittsburgh's championship hopes, as Big Ben was clearly not anywhere close to 100% health during the Steelers' wild-card loss to Denver. The hits on Roethlisberger -- as well as the offense's dip in production -- led Pittsburgh's brass to not renew offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' contract that offseason while replacing him with Todd Haley. While Roethlisberger went onto enjoy some of his best statistical seasons with Haley, the Steelers have appeared it just one AFC Championship Game since their last trip to the Super Bowl.
The 2012 Patriots
Unlike the Colts and Steelers, the Patriots would make another deep playoff run a year after falling short in the Super Bowl. Led by quarterback Tom Brady and third-year tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots would win 12 games during the regular season on the strength of their top-ranked scoring offense.
After putting 41 points up on the Texans in the divisional round, the Patriots would host the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game for a second straight year. But after taking a 13-7 lead into intermission, the Patriots would get shut out during the second half, as three Joe Flacco touchdown passes led the Ravens to a 28-13 victory. While credit should be given to the Ravens, the Patriots were clearly impacted by the loss of Gronkowski, who was inactive after breaking his forearm the previous week against the Texans.
While the Ravens would go on to defeat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, the Patriots would lose in the AFC title game again in 2013 before making it back to the Super Bowl in 2014.
The 2013 49ers
A year after falling just short in Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers showed virtually no drop off in 2013, winning 12 regular season games while boasting the league's third-ranked scoring defense. After scoring 23 points their playoff wins over the Packers and Panthers, the 49ers' offense scored just 17 points in their six-point loss to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game. While 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gashed the Seahawks' defense on the ground (rushing for 130 yards on 11 carries), his two interceptions, including his infamous end zone interception with 30 seconds left, loomed large in the 49ers' 23-17 loss.
While their defense was still one of the league's best in 2014, the 49ers regressed dramatically on the offensive side of the ball, ranking just 25th in scoring and 28th in red zone efficiency. San Francisco slipped to 8-8 in 2014, missing the playoffs in what was John Harbaugh's final season with the team. The 49ers won just seven games over the next two seasons before the franchise brought in Shanahan and GM John Lynch in 2017.
After an embarrassing blowout loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Manning and the Broncos showed their resolve by winning 12 regular season games in 2014. Manning enjoyed another prolific season, while Denver's defense improved from 22nd to 16th in points allowed.
But despite their defensive improvement, the Broncos' defense was still not good enough to stop Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who led the Colts to an upset win over Denver in the divisional round. The Broncos' loss was a team effort, however, as Manning completed just 56.5% of his throws in Denver's 24-13 loss.
The Broncos' defense saw a rapid improvement in 2015, as Broncos GM John Elway replaced former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio with Wade Phillips. While Manning battled age and injury in 2015, Von Miller and the rest of the Broncos' fourth-ranked defense led the Broncos to a victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Statistically, the Seahawks, who won the Super Bowl in '13 before losing a classic to the Patriots the previous season, were even better in 2015. While their defense, led by Richard Sherman, was ranked first in the league for a third straight year, their offense, led by Russell Wilson, finished 4th in the NFL in scoring after being 10th and 8th in that department the previous two years.
But after edging the Vikings on the road in the wild card round, Seattle was blasted by the Panthers, who went 15-1 during the regular season, in the divisional round. After allowing a 59-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, the Seahawks found themselves trailing 31-0 at halftime. While Wilson's three second-half touchdown passes helped close the gap, the Seahawks ultimately fell to the eventual NFC champs, 31-24.
While Wilson continued to develop into a top-tier quarterback, Seattle would fall again to the eventual NFC champion in the '16 playoffs before missing the playoffs altogether in 2017. While the Seahawks have rebounded with consecutive playoff appearances, they haven't advanced past the divisional round since 2014.
The 2016 Panthers were unable to shake off their dismal Super Bowl showing the previous season. A year after winning league MVP honors, quarterback Cam Newton suffered a down year (that was partly due to an injury he sustained in Week 14), completing less than 53% of his pass attempts. Carolina's defense -- after losing All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman in free agency -- also took a major step back, as the Panthers' secondary went from 11th to 29th in passing yards allow. The regressions of Newton and the defense contributed largely to the Panthers' 6-10 record in 2016. Carolina enjoyed a brief resurgence in 2017 before missing the playoffs again in 2018 and in 2019. Ron Rivera, who led Carolina to three straight division titles earlier in the decade, was relieved of his duties late in the 2019 season. He has since resurfaced in Washington with the Redskins.
Like the Panthers, the Falcons, who famously squandered a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, endured a Super Bowl hangover, winning just half of their first eight games of the 2017 campaign. But after a slow start, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons rebounded by going 6-2 down the stretch to clinch a wild card berth. But after defeating the up and coming Rams in Los Angeles in the wild card round, the Falcons' red zone issues that season (they were 23rd in the NFL in red zone efficiency that season) reared its ugly head in the divisional round, as the Falcons scored just 10 points in their road loss to the eventual champion -- the Philadelphia Eagles. Atlanta has yet to return to the postseason, posting 7-9 records in each of the past two seasons.
After rallying from behind to defeat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots surrendered 41 points in their loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. And despite a (for them) modest 11-5 record, the Patriots regained their swagger in the playoffs, dismantling the Chargers in the divisional round before needing overtime to defeat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC title game.
In Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots' defense held the Rams to just three points, tied for the fewest total allowed by a team in Super Bowl history. Offensively, New England was led by game MVP Julian Edelman, whose 10-catch, 141-yard effort keyed the Patriots' 13-3 win and sixth Super Bowl win during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Unlike the '18 Patriots, the Rams were unable to rebound the year after losing the Big Game. Injuries at the skill positions, a slip in production on the defensive side of the ball, and playing in the NFL's toughest division took its toll on the Rams last season, as Los Angeles missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The Rams have already begun making changes in order to get back to a Super Bowl, replacing former DC Wade Phillips with 37-year-old Brandon Staley, who served as the Bears' LB coach from 2017-18 before assuming the same position in Denver last season.