The last NFL game played by anyone — Super Bowl LIV — still stings those who lost it.
It hurts a little more for Richard Sherman because he feels like his defensive teammates should have brought home a title that was within reach at the start of the fourth quarter.
No, it’s not Jimmy Garoppolo‘s fault, despite his abysmal fourth quarter of that game. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the defenders who surrendered the lead to Kansas City in the final period, according to Sherman.
“It’s just barber shop talk. It’s just something to have a topic. It’s just foolish,” Sherman said on KNBR radio Wednesday. … “When you hear them blaming Jimmy, Jimmy doesn’t play defense. We had a 10-point lead. We get the guy a stop, we win the game.”
They didn’t get a stop, instead watching eventual Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes carve them up en route to 21 straight points, a heroic comeback and the NFL’s greatest glory. Many were quick to blame Garoppolo, who completed just 3 of 11 passes in the final period and missed a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on a play that could have produced a decisive touchdown.
Instead, it was Sherman and his teammates who were left to get burned by Chiefs targets.
“Jimmy played fine,” Sherman continued. “He did what he was supposed to do. We got to finish that game out. I got to finish that game out. I got to do what I’m supposed to do. I’m an All-Pro player, I got to play All-Pro down the stretch.”
It’s a shift in tone from the analysis that immediately followed the loss, which at the time essentially split the blame evenly between the defense’s fourth-quarter meltdown and Garoppolo’s retreat into his shell when the lights shined brightest. It was fair — after all, average quarterback play in the fourth gets the Niners closer to a win than what Garoppolo produced — but it seemed slanted more toward the quarterback than the defense that suddenly couldn’t stop a nosebleed.
“I think, along with other leaders on the team, we would defend him vigorously because that had nothing to do with him,” Sherman said.
Maybe not quite, but it’s encouraging to see a veteran stand up for his quarterback. With the 49ers retooled and ready to make another run at a Lombardi, that type of solidarity is what a championship contender will need when times get tough.