Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner joined the 49ers in 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to play in the postseason and his first Super Bowl this season.
He and his teammates had to endure some rough years to get to the level they achieved in 2019, going 13-3, winning the NFC West and earning a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
So to lose the Super Bowl the way the 49ers did, going from a 20-10 lead to a 31-20 loss in the fourth quarter to the Kansas City Chiefs, hurts. And the pain isn’t likely to go away soon.
Buckner told Nick Wagoner of ESPN that he’s watched film of the game and hopes the pain fuels he and his teammates to be even better this season and beyond.
He especially has watched one play over and over: a Chiefs’ 44-yard pass play on a third-and-15 situation in the fourth quarter that led to a touchdown and the run of K.C. points. Buckner just missed sacking quarterback Patrick Mahomes, then Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill.
Buckner called it probably "the biggest play of the game."
After hitting Mahomes, Buckner looked downfield to see the completion and said it was "one of the most gut-wrenching feelings" he’s ever had in his career.
Said Buckner: "I’m going to forever play that in my head until we win one. It’s going to forever be in my head because that was a play that could really determine, in my eyes, winning or losing the Super Bowl."
Buckner, a first-round pick out of Oregon, is one of the reasons the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. He had 7.5 sacks in the regular season, along with 14 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and 61 combined tackles as part of one of the NFL’s best defensive lines. The 49ers picked up his fifth-year option for 2020 for $14.4 million.
On Wednesday, 49ers coaches voted him team MVP. Now, he wants to get back to the Super Bowl.
He told Wagoner he has a souvenir of the game for motivation: a photo of him almost sacking Mahomes on that third-and-15 play. It’s now on the home screen of his phone.
He’ll have to look at it every day.