The Quest For Six

Kev Neylon
9 min readFeb 12, 2024

Before I started to write this piece, I had a look back at my pre-season prediction piece.

I didn’t do too badly for me compared to usual, even if I do say so myself. I called a 12–5 regular season record, hoped for the Lions in the NFC Championship game, but did say I wanted anyone else apart from the Chiefs in the Superbowl. (I did also say I would be disappointed if we didn’t finish with a 6–0 division record, and I was, even if there were a lot of backups involved in that final game. Should still be trying to wipe the Rams out.)

It was a tougher season than it really should have been. We raced out to a 5–0 start and looked the class act in the NFL. Only to follow that with a three-game losing streak as a wheel came off. That wheel being the especially important Trent Williams (and not Deebo Samuel as most media outlets would have you believe). We righted the train when he was back and put another 6–0 streak together. During which time we fundamentally broke the Eagles. They went from 10–1 before we played them to finish 11–6 and end up losing in the first round of the playoffs.

Then we came up against the Ravens. Ouch. That game was nasty, nasty, nasty. It wasn’t that the wheels came off. More a case of a much bigger train just rolling over the tops of ours. A win against the Commanders (it’s still a shit name for a team), secured the NFC number one seed for us, which led to us resting key players in the last game of the season which we contrived to lose against the damn Rams of all people.

With a first round bye it should have meant plenty of time to get players fit and raring to go. Which for the first three quarters of the game against the Packers they weren’t. Multiple scores down going into the fourth quarter. Brock Purdy finally came to life and the first multiple scores come from behind fourth quarter victory of the Kyle Shanahan era followed, as with it was a first fourth quarter winning drive from Purdy. It got a lot of monkeys off a lot of backs. And it shredded a shit ton of nerves along the way as well. The kind of game that isn’t conducive to post game sleep, even when it is stupid o’clock in the morning. But it was another playoff win over the Packers and on to the NFC Championship game.

And coming to town were the Detroit Lions. Who I have a soft spot for (it’s the perennial losers thing, the no Superbowl appearances, and that Detroit is the home of Motown Records — particularly important to me), unless they are playing the 49ers. But it would seem the 49ers had a soft spot for them as well as they went into half time with a seventeen-point deficit. Only to come out for the second half and both sides of the ball click. Purdy got a second fourth quarter winning drive on the trot, but the stop by the defence after that is what sealed the win.

If I thought my nerves were shredded after the Packers game, then I was wrong, this is what shredded really looked like. But there were positives to take from the two playoff games. Come from behind victories. Toughing games out when not playing particularly well (something we couldn’t do in the mid-season losing streak), and hopefully picking up the right mentality.

Which meant it was on to the Superbowl, and it is Deja-vu all over again as we play the Kansas City Chiefs in a repeat from four years ago (it really doesn’t seem that long, time flies when you are older). Where it was the Chiefs who came to life in the fourth quarter and the 49ers who stalled. That one was watched in Liverpool with other 49ers fans from the UK 49ers Empire group. They are meeting up for this one in Birmingham (and there is an official 49ers organisation watch party in Leeds), but I can’t face joining in this time as the social anxiety is too much for me. I am watching by myself at home.

In between the NFC Championship game and the Superbowl I have been avoiding as much of the media build up as possible. I have seen some things around the team, such as Christian McCaffrey winning the Offensive Player Of The Year award, along with the Jim Brown award for most rushing yards in the league and the ground Player of the Year, and Brock Purdy winning the Air player of the Year. And Patrick Willis getting into the Hall of Fame at the third attempt, with people saying, ‘about damn time.’ Yet Roger Craig still isn’t there. And that is still a disgrace.

The two weeks have simultaneously, gone in the blink of an eye, and crawled by at the pace of a hibernating tortoise. But it is now that special day of the year — Superbowl Sunday.

I don’t have Sky Sports anymore, so it will have to be watched on ITV. And even if I did still have Sky Sports it would still be ITV as the channel of choice to be watching it. I couldn’t stand three and a half hours of flicking back to Neil ‘numbscull’ Reynolds in the studio. I’ve been doing anything but watch the time all day, and still avoiding the build-up, I flick over to ITV with less than ten minutes to go before kick-off. Tensed up and as ready as I’m ever going to be to watch another 49ers Superbowl appearance.

The pre-game singing has already started when I turn over, and then it is the coin toss, and it was the first loss of the day for the 49ers, which means we get the ball first. The drive starts well and slice the way up the field only for McCaffrey to fumble and the Chiefs recover. Not the start we wanted. But the D are up for this, it’s a three and out for the Chiefs and they have to punt. And we all start again. The second drive starts well again, but penalties kill that drive, and we have to punt. And the D forces a quick punt again, and the first quarter ends scoreless.

And the first points of the game come eleven seconds into the second quarter, a Jake Moody field goal and the 48ers have a 3–0 lead. The Chiefs have a massive completion inside the red zone, and then they fumble, and we recover. And breathe. Only for it to be a quick punt. Speaking of quick punts, there’s another one from the Chiefs, but Dre Greenlaw is carted off (and ruled out with an Achilles injury, which is not a good sign. There isn’t a lot of scoring, but there is a lot of camera shots of celebrities in the crowd. Who fucking cares who’s in the crowd, if they aren’t on the pitch playing, they aren’t important. What is important is scoring touchdowns, and it’s a trick play, back to Deebo Samuel one way, back across to McCaffrey who sprints in from twenty-one yards, and the extra point is good and its 10–0. Come on. The Chiefs drive well, but once inside the ten the 49ers defence stiffens and hold them to a field goal and it’s 10–3. And after a single play it’s half time.

Which means the half time show. Which was headlined by Usher (with appearances from Alicia Keys, Will i Am, Lil Jon, Ludacris, and Jermaine Dupri), very much following the trend of the last few years with it being a very R&B orientated choice of artists. But, with the Superbowl being in Las Vegas for the first time, it could have been some of the classic residency artists over the years. Get the zimmer frames out and put Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck on stage or go down the hologram route and put Elvis and Sinatra on as well. After all, it’s ten years since Usher had a top ten hit in the US or UK.

The Chiefs have the first possession, and on the third play it’s an interception by Brown, and the 49ers have the ball a lot earlier than they might have hoped. Only a punt to be forced, which we manage to down at the two-yard line for the Chiefs to start their next drive, and it is another three and out and another punt. Only for the 49ers have to punt it back again, and another player is down, and it is Deebo, and it doesn’t look good. We manage to stop the drive in field goal range, which they make, and it is 10–6. A three and out follows and it’s another punt from the 49ers. And the same from the Chiefs. Shit, this is tense. Oh, fuck it’s a muffed punt, and the Chiefs have instant red zone. First play and it’s a touchdown, a pass to MVS, and it’s 10–13. This quarter seems like it is going on for an eternity. First play and there is another injury, our right guard. But Deebo is back on and appears to be moving freely. We pass halfway just before the end of the quarter, and there are only fifteen minutes left.

The start to the final quarter is shredding the nerves yet again. Stopped on third down at the Chiefs fifteen-yard line, we go for it on fourth down and make it by inches. Two plays later we have a touchdown to Jennings, but the extra point is blocked, but we lead again, 16–13. The Chiefs waltz down the field only to be held up within five yards, and they kick a field goal. All tied up at 16–16. Just over five minutes left. One slow methodical drive needed. Please. We still have the ball at the two-minute warning. A third down in field goal range. And adverts, none of which is helping the heartrate. The third down fails and it’s a field goal attempt and it’s good, and we lead again 19–16. Come on D. Mahomes makes it look easy, but we hold and force another field goal attempt, which is through and it’s all tied up again at 19–19 with three seconds left and we are going to overtime.

This time we win the toss and will get the ball first. First play and it was nearly intercepted. Then Kittle is off to the locker room, we are injury jinxed, but he is back quickly. The plan seems to be, give it to McCaffrey as we get up to the red zone. But the Chiefs hold firm and it’s Moody with the field goal and we lead 22–19. It’s a fourth down and less than one, but Mahomes gets the first down. That was the chance surely. And it was, the endless march down the field carried on, and with three seconds left they have a touchdown and the win 22–25.

More heartbreak as late as it could possibly be. How much does a blocked extra point cost? What a way to lose. What a way to end a season that was so full of promise.

Can we come back from this and get here and win next season.

So near and yet so far.

It feels like a crushing loss.

I feel numb.

There is no celebration, just misery.

How much of this squad can we keep together to have another run. What changes are needed to get us over the line, both figuratively and literally.


This one stings more than four years ago, more than the Ravens loss. It will take a lot of time to stop feeling this. Six months before the new season. Deep breaths.

Go Niners.

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Kev Neylon

Writing fiction, travel, history, sport, & music blogs. Monthly e-zine with all kinds of writing at All pictures used are my own.