The San Francisco 49ers entered the 1994 season as co-favorites to win the Super Bowl. They had made the NFC Championship Game each of the previous 2 seasons only to lose to the Dallas Cowboys both times. Despite the high expectations for the team, their head coach and quarterback entered the season with a great deal of doubt from the fan base.
Coach George Seifert was the surprise replacement for Bill Walsh after his retirement following the 1988 season. He had been the defensive coordinator under Walsh for 5 years and chosen over the slew of eventual head coaches on the offensive side of the staff. Entering his first season as coach in 1989, most pundits and followers of the NFL believed that the veteran 49ers would struggle without the genius Walsh. Instead, the veterans on the team rallied together to lead the team to a 14-2 record and another Super Bowl victory. They would go 14-2 again in 1990 only to come up short in the NFC Championship game. In case you're not paying attention, that means Seifert entered the 1994 season having gone 1-3 in NFC Championship games with 3 of those games being at home. 49er fans believed that 1989 had been won by the veterans on the team and Seifert was not much of a coach.
Quarterback Steve Young entered the season under even greater fire. Here was an eventual Hall of Fame quarterback who had won the MVP in 1992. Most every other team in the NFL would love to have him at the most important position in the game. Instead, the fans in San Francisco wanted to ride him out on a rail. In the second game of the 1994 season, the 49ers went to Kansas City to face Joe Montana and the Chiefs. There is footage of numerous 49er fans rooting against their team during that game because they liked Montana that much more than Young. While Seifert at least had the success of the 1989 season to fall back on, everyone was convinced Young never would win a big game. To be fair to Young, he had lost in consecutive years to one of the greatest collections of talent in NFL history.
The 49ers lost that previously mentioned game in Kansas City. They entered a Week 5 home date against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 3-1 record. This was a mediocre Eagles team that had gone 8-8 during the 1993 season and would finish 1994 at 7-9. Most of the key players from their Buddy Ryan led defenses of the late 80s were gone. This was a game that a team as good as the 49ers should walk away with a victory. Instead, disaster struck. The Eagles won by a final score of 40-8. Seifert pulled Young from the game, ostensibly to protect Young from possible injury in such a lopsided game. The big story from this game was Young having to be restrained while screaming at Seifert on the sidelines.
The 49ers would rally to win their next game. They would keep on winning up to the final week of the regular season. In their only loss after that humiliation at the hands of the Eagles, they lost by 7 despite resting their starters for a large portion of the game. They would roll through the playoffs and on through one of the most lopsided victories in Super Bowl history. Asked today, some players from that team have said that that loss was a rallying point for the team. A 32 point loss at home brought them together.
Why did I write about the 1994 49ers on a Chicago Bears blog? Obviously, it was because that 40-8 loss really sticks out on their season. This team rallied after that loss to dominate the rest of the NFL. No, I don't think the Bears are going to rally from their likewise embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals to dominate or even win the Super Bowl. I still believe this team can at least make the playoffs. After a loss as lopsided as Sunday's, it can be easy to believe the Bears won't win a single game for the remainder of the season. There is still plenty of talent on this team and even in the coaching staff. Good teams can, have, and will lose games by 30 plus points. Sometimes, good things can come from a loss like that.