After years of missing the playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers finally made the postseason for the first time in 15 years with a 41-35 victory over the Detroit Lions.
The win marked a remarkable turnaround after a year of disappointing seasons, which culminated in the team losing their first-round playoff game to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.
But the team’s record was even more surprising, given that quarterback Colin Kaepernick was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick, a veteran backup who started only one game.
The 49ers also lost their first game of the season after an injury to starting left tackle Alex Boone.
A win over the Lions on the road was expected, but they struggled mightily to build a lead, and then they came up empty after an interception by Detroit’s Joe Dahl.
“I was really frustrated, man,” Kaepernick said.
“I was like, `What’s the deal?
We’re not good enough to play.
What is going on here?'”
After being the team to beat in the season opener, the 49ers had the ball for just 2:25 in the first quarter.
The Lions’ defense forced a fumble and the 49er defense forced an interception on a third-and-long.
Kaepernick threw a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for the 49s to take the lead for good.
As the Lions came back in the second quarter, the Niners’ defense went down again.
After being pressured five times, the Lions had only one first down.
On the next play, quarterback Josh Johnson hit tight end Eric Ebron for a 24-yard touchdown.
After a field goal attempt by Matthew Stafford, the first down went to the Lions with less than two minutes remaining.
Kaepernick was sacked for the second time in the third quarter, and the Lions went on to win the game 28-28.
Even though Kaepernick’s season ended on an ugly note, the former first-overall draft pick said he didn’t feel as if the loss was an overall failure.
“(The loss) was not a failure,” he said.
He added that the team did have some good moments, like winning the game in overtime in the playoffs.
After his season ended, Kaepernick played for the Carolina Panthers for three seasons.
He is currently the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, making $1.75 million per season.
Despite the struggles, Kaepernick said he hopes the team keeps working to improve.
I’m just hoping they stay focused and try to stay in this league, Kaepernick told ESPN’s Josina Anderson in an interview broadcast on Thursday.
“It’s all going to work out in the end.
I just hope it doesn’t get too out of hand and we get to the playoffs.”
The 49ers will face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.
Follow Alex Pappas on Twitter at @alexappas.