For the second straight season the San Francisco 49ers’ season ended in heartbreak. This time it was in the Super Bowl as opposed to the NFC Championship. Even though it was one step further, the ultimate goal wasn’t reached and there are only so many opportunities to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The Niners got off to a slow start once again, the team’s backbone — the defense — gave up over 30 points and the offense had three head-scratching plays after getting to the five-yard line late in the game. They will once again go into next season as one of the top teams in the NFL, and it’s possible that they could be even better after this learning experience, but they looked like the better team in Super Bowl XLVII and letting number six slip away will sting for a while. Patrick Willis joined 95.7 the Game in San Francisco with the Wheelhouse to discuss how he is doing following the loss in the Super Bowl, whether he takes any solace in the fact that the 49ers went one step further than they did a season ago, how tough the last few days have been for him, his thoughts on next year’s team, what he makes of the criticism that Jim Harbaugh has been receiving and what he would like to say to the fans.
How are you doing after the loss?
“I’m doing better than I was. I said earlier in the week that I learned a long time ago, I pray before each game and I just go out there and give it all I have. When the game is over with, win, lose or draw you have to let the game go and move on to the next. Unfortunately there’s no more next week for us.”
If he takes any solace in the fact that the 49ers went one step further this year than they did last year:
“I don’t believe in any moral victories at all. To get a step further than we did last year, it’s OK but it wasn’t good enough because our goal was not just to make it to the Super Bowl but to win it. We fell short of that. You look at the bigger picture, so that means we got better but we didn’t succeed in our overall goal.”
How tough the last few days of doing interviews has been for him:
“To fall short, it sucks. It does. It sucks to be that close and be as close as we were and not get it done. As I’ve always said, ‘We win as a team and we lose as a team,’ and we all had our hand in that game. The three plays on the five-yard line, it was all of us — offense, defense and special teams — and we collectively did not get the job done and that’s on all of our backs.”
On his thoughts when thinking about next year’s team:
“I’ve already kind of put that in motion of looking ahead. One thing I learned a long time ago is you can’t let your past hold you hostage. Sunday happened and I can sit around, be mad and mope about it but nothing is going to change. The fact is the game is over, they won and that’s what it is. As far as what I see when I look forward, just in myself, you always have to start with yourself and then look out. What I see is making sure we understand that each play and opportunity we have to play a down, we have to make it count. It has to mean that much to you to be successful on that play and not just take it for granted. When we go into OTAs and offseason conditioning, we have to keep in mind that everything counts.”
On people being critical of Jim Harbaugh:
“It is what it is. You’re always going to have opinions. When things don’t go right, people always say what should have been right or what they would have done. They weren’t out there. Coach made decisions to do what he felt were necessary and it’s just unfortunate that it didn’t work out. If it had worked out, we wouldn’t be talking about that today. Everybody would be patting him on the back. …You’re always going to have the Monday morning coaching. Anybody can look at film and say, ‘I would have done this or I would have done that.’ Coach Harbaugh is our general and we’re going to stand behind him as we have the last few years. The only thing we can do at this point is continue to believe in one another from top to bottom and let’s go make a run at it again.”
On his message to the fans:
“I just want to say to the fans, I really appreciate the fans that we have, the ones that are behind us win, lose or draw, and the ones that always seem to lift our spirits. It’s really great to have fans like that. I’m sorry about us coming up short but I promise you one thing about this team, one thing about us as players, we will continue to fight and do all it takes to bring number six to the Bay Area, and hopefully it is sooner than later.”