The San Francisco 49ers lost in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history last season, but that loss to the Baltimore Ravens highlighted how far the NFC West powerhouse has come in the last two years.
Alex Smith suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 11 that altered the entire course of the 49ers' season. While Jim Harbaugh was criticized for his decision to keep Colin Kaepernick at the helm of the offense when Smith returned, it ultimately proved to be the best decision he could have made.
In his second season with the team, Kaepernick compiled 2,229 total yards and 15 total touchdowns in 13 regular-season games—and somehow played even better in the playoffs.
In three postseason contests, the shifty signal-caller tallied 1,062 total yards and seven more touchdowns, including a 444-total-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round. With a 28-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, the 49ers would punch their ticket to New Orleans for a championship showdown with the Ravens.
The story of Super Bowl XLVII has been told and retold. The Ravens got out to a tremendous start with a 21-6 lead at the half, but San Francisco battled back in the third quarter to pull within one of the lead.
Despite Kaepernick’s best efforts, San Francisco was unable to overtake the eventual champions, dropping a heartbreaking contest 34-31.
It wasn’t an easy loss for 49ers fans to swallow, but there’s plenty to be hopeful about this season. San Francisco is well on its way to becoming the preeminent franchise of the National Football League.
With a future superstar under center, one of the best offensive lines in the league and a defense unmatched by any unit in the NFC, the 49ers are in no danger of fading away after last year's Super Bowl run.
Trent Baalke is one of the most forward-thinking general managers in the NFL, and he’s done a tremendous job in setting up San Francisco with sustainability and elite talent. And he added to that talent this offseason.
With the additions of former Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and former Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, an already dangerous defense got even stronger. It remains to be seen if the All-Pro corner can return to form in San Francisco, but Baalke managed to acquire him on a very cap-friendly contract (one year with no guaranteed money, per ESPN).
The 49ers did lose hard-hitting safety Dashon Goldson to free agency, but Baalke and Harbaugh had a plan for replacing him. They moved up to the 18th pick in the first round of the draft to acquire LSU safety Eric Reid—a move that encapsulated San Francisco's draft success this year.
The duo continued to impress with their draft selections, finding tremendous value throughout the weekend. Among the high-value players selected, Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine, Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
A shining example of the rich getting richer, the 49ers put together one of the most impressive offseasons of any team in the league, on the heels of an absolutely dominant 2012 season. There’s no reason to believe San Francisco can’t duplicate its success in 2013.
We’ll take a closer look at many of those offseason moves and preview several key position battles this offseason, as well as provide an outlook and predictions for the 2013 season.