That was probably one of the worst ways to watch a playoff season end. Sometimes you reach the playoffs and you see your team just get utterly annihilated, like the Giants last week. It hurts, but watching a game like that when you never had much chance doesn’t burn as bad. Your team was outmatched and hit a wall they could never climb. You come to terms with it quickly and look back on the good times. Watching your team lose a close fight hurts more, and you wonder if you missed the chance to win it all, but at least they put up a damn fight and went down swinging, and you just couldn’t win the day. Sometimes you are the Saints, and you lose a game thanks to a horrific missed call, and that absolutely blows but at the very least you can channel that frustration into righteous pissiness.

But what happened to the 49ers was just…depressing. They got blown out, but it was at the expense of what could have been, what should have been, a better game. The 49ers didn’t hit a wall, they were thrown into it by the cruel bus of fate. All of us were robbed of what could have been, not just 49ers fans. The 49ers and their fans were robbed of a chance to see their team compete and win. The Eagles were robbed of a fair fight, a genuine challenge on which to prove themselves to the doubters. Those of us rooting against the Eagles got robbed of a chance to see them struggle and die. Those rooting against the 49ers got robbed of a chance to see them eat shit, fairly. All of us were robbed of a fun, competitive football game between the two best teams in the conference. All from one little boop to the elbow.

The 49ers pulled some magic out of their asses this year. I can’t remember if a team has ever achieved this much while starting their 3rd string QB before. Lance going down was bad, but at least they could turn to handsome Jimmy to hold steady. Hold steady he did; until he died. After Brock Purdy came in I think most 49ers fans assumed that was probably it. Playoffs maybe, deep success unlikely. But Purdy outperformed all expectations and just…didn’t lose. Was he incredible? Not really. He didn’t need to be. He just had to be smart, safe, and effective, and he performed that just fine. The 49ers did indeed have an easy schedule (just like the Eagles), but just like the Eagles, they did their duty and shut those teams down.

All of it ended on their third play on offense. After the first Eagles drive ended on a touchdown they never should have had (Devonta Smith dropped the 4th down ball but it wasn’t challenged), the 49ers went up in smoke immediately. Maybe you were convinced the team could hold out hope. They got there on the strength of the defense, right? All Josh Johnson had to do was not fuck up, right? Kyle Shanahan is an incredible mind, but even he can’t turn an emergency 4th stringer who has never been good into a champion. Johnson tried but never stood a chance. Not against a team that now knew it could sell out vs the run and just blanket the offense.

The game was lost on that 3rd play. The 9ers kept a smidge of hope for a little bit, CMC had a brilliant TD run after they were gifted a short field. But it was over. You could see it was over. You could see the frustration and existential sadness on the 49ers sideline. The Eagles didn’t play their best game, but they didn’t have to. They could have trotted out Minshew for the second half, handed the ball off every play, and won. A great defense can hold up a weaker offense for a long time, but the Eagles have a great offense and when you get absolutely zero support from the other side of the ball, every defense crumbles.

I absolutely believe the 49ers had a chance if Purdy doesn’t get hurt. I think the Eagles would have still been my pick, but if Purdy stays in the offense at least stays more functional and lasts longer, giving the defense some breaks, possibly okay scoring support, and the Eagles have a real fight. Johnson couldn’t do it, and then he also got knocked out and spared the memory of this catastrophe. Purdy came back in and clearly just could not throw a football. A slow, painful, depressing death to one of the more magical seasons the 49ers have had. A shame.