What are the worst moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. A fourth-quarter collapse
Dallas will remember the 1972 NFC championship game for Roger Staubach’s fourth-quarter comeback. San Francisco will recall it as a stunning collapse. The John Brodie-led NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers were only a quarter away from defeating the team that had eliminated them from the playoffs the previous two seasons. They led the Dallas Cowboys 28-13 entering the fourth quarter when the Cowboys decided to yank struggling starting quarterback Craig Morton and insert Staubach into the game. A Staubach touchdown pass with 1:30 left pulled the Cowboys within five and then 49ers receiver Preston Riley fumbled the ensuing onside kick. Staubach finished off the comeback with his second touchdown pass, and the Cowboys eliminated the 49ers once again.
4. Fade to Crabtree goes wrong
The 49ers had four plays from inside the Baltimore Ravens 10-yard line to try to win Super Bowl XLVII in Jim Harbaugh’s second season. It’s the fourth missed opportunity of the four that remains the most painful. Under heavy pressure, Colin Kaepernick lofted a fade pattern to Michael Crabtree in the back right corner of the end zone, but the ball fell just out of the receiver’s reach. The 49ers’ calls for pass interference fell on deaf ears even though Ravens corner Jimmy Smith appeared to make contact with Crabtree prior to the ball arriving. That sequence is all the more heartbreaking for the 49ers considering they had rallied from a 28-6 deficit to make a game of it. It turned out to be their lone Super Bowl appearance under Harbaugh, who led the 49ers to three straight NFC title games.
3. Kyle Williams’ muffed punt
Kyle Williams earned a place in 49ers playoff infamy during the NFC championship game in January 2012. The young receiver’s two botched punt returns cost San Francisco the chance to reach the Super Bowl in Jim Harbaugh’s debut season. Williams set up the New York Giants’ lone second-half score early in the fourth quarter when he hesitated going after a short punt, then had the ball carom off his leg. Things got worse during overtime when he caught a punt and headed upfield only to have the Giants’ Jacquian Williams punch the ball loose. Devin Thomas recovered at the 49ers’ 24-yard line and a few plays later, the Giants secured a spot in the Super Bowl with a field goal.
2. Roger Craig’s fumble
Three minutes away from having the opportunity to become the only NFL team to win three straight Super Bowls, the 49ers let their chance at history slip away. Running back Roger Craig fumbled in Giants territory with 2:42 left in the 1990 NFC championship game and the 49ers clinging to a 13-12 lead. The Giants recovered and scraped together just enough offense to set up Matt Bahr’s game-winning 42-yard field goal as time expired. That 49ers team would have been a heavy favorite in the Super Bowl against Buffalo just as the Giants were. San Francisco instead said goodbye to some of its cornerstone stars as Craig and Ronnie Lott signed elsewhere in the offseason and Joe Montana played only one more season for the franchise before leaving for Kansas City in 1992.
1. Eddie DeBartolo gives up ownership of the team
If coach Bill Walsh was the architect of the 49ers dynasty, owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was its tone setter. DeBartolo inspired unusual reverence among his players by striking a precarious balance between big-hearted generosity and the relentless pursuit of excellence. His philosophy was this: Give players the biggest contracts, the best perks and the most luxurious amenities, and they’ll play their butts off for you. DeBartolo ceded control of the 49ers to his sister in 1998 after becoming embroiled in a Louisiana gaming scandal and pleading guilty to a felony charge of failing to report an extortion attempt. In DeBartolo’s 23 years as controlling owner, the 49ers produced 16 playoff appearances and five Super Bowl wins. The new regime has produced only five winning seasons since then and has cycled through eight coaches.