Welcome back to the land of 2019. The 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers and 9-7 Los Angeles Rams would have made the playoffs under the new format. Despite narrowly missing the playoffs, both teams have come under intense scrutiny due to trading their 2020 first-round picks in exchange for a failed attempt at making the playoffs.
Here, in an alternate 2019, the Steelers and Rams make the playoffs.
Here is the new Super Bowl 54. The San Francisco 49ers found their way here in real life, and the NFC went down as it did in real life. On the contrary, the Baltimore Ravens avoided the Tennessee Titans in the simulation, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans in the divisional round and conference championship games.
The 49ers and Ravens played in the regular season with the Ravens winning on a last-second field goal at home. In Miami, what would the result be?
The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive. On the opening carry of the game, Raheem Mostert failed to gain much ground. It was the same story on second down, and Matt Breida was stuffed on third down, necessitating a punt.
Lamar Jackson misfired on his first pass attempt. Mark Ingram trimmed the third down to a third-and-seven, and Jackson found Seth Roberts for the conversion. Ingram and Gus Edwards gained four yards on the next two runs before Jackson hit Ingram for eight yards and another first down. After a loss of one by Ingram, Edwards toted the rock for 10 yards. On third-and-one from the San Francisco 32, Jackson kept the ball on a bootleg, split would-be tacklers, and walked into the end zone untouched. After the extra point, the Ravens lead 7-0.
Jimmy Garoppolo found George Kittle for four yards on the first play of the ensuing drive. He then hit Breida for the first down. Mostert had a minimal gain before Garoppolo’s screen pass to Emmanuel Sanders missed the mark. On third down, Deebo Samuel split open the Ravens’ secondary for 23 yards. Two runs later, the 49ers were into the red zone. Garoppolo hit Kittle for 12 yards before Mostert sliced into the end zone on a seven-yard touchdown. Chase McLaughlin connected on the extra point to tie the game 7-7.
The Ravens ended the quarter with three runs and a short pass to Edwards, gaining 17 yards. The drive ended two runs later as Edwards was stuffed on a third-and-five.
Garoppolo continued the hot start, finding Kittle for a first down. After a short run by Breida and a misfire on second down, Garoppolo found a cutting Marquise Goodwin for 17 and a first down. After a Mostert short gain, Garoppolo connected with Samuel for 15 and Sanders for six. Breida failed to pick up the first down on his next two touches, so the 49ers settled for a 37-yard field goal. McLaughlin hooked it in to give the 49ers a 10-7 lead.
Ingram and Jackson went back and forth with three runs, gaining 19 yards in total. Jackson proceeded to hit Willie Snead on a slant, gaining 46 yards. Three runs later, Jackson found paydirt again. After a Justin Tucker extra point, the Ravens led 14-10.
The 49ers gained just two yards on their next drive, forcing a punt.
After an Ingram carry, Jackson gained another first down with his legs. Following an incompletion on first down, DeForest Buckner wreaked havoc, recording back-to-back sacks to force a Baltimore punt.
Garoppolo hit Mostert for a gain of 11 to open the drive. After a pair of runs and a timeout, Kendrick Bourne found the seam and raced to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left in the half. After the extra point, the 49ers led 17-14.
The Ravens were forced to punt again, but Sam Koch launched the ball out of bounds as the final seconds of the half ticked off the clock.
Edwards opened the second half with a 13-yard run. Hill and Ingram gained a pair of yards each before Jackson hit Snead for eight yards and a first down. Ingram had another short run preceding a Jackson-to-Roberts incompletion. On third down, Jackson scrambled to gain 14 yards. Now inside the 30, the drive stalled with three consecutive short runs. Tucker tied the game with a 40-yard field goal.
Mostert popped a solid run to open the next drive, but a pair of poor runs and a Brandon Carr sack ended the effort.
After a false start, Ingram and Edwards picked up three and 13 yards respectively. Justice Hill broke the game open with a 35-yard run to put the Ravens inside the San Francisco 10. After an Edwards run and a facemask penalty, Ingram punched it in. The Ravens lead 24-17.
The 49ers went backward on their next two plays, but a third-and-13 morphed into a third-and-three after two defensive penalties by the Ravens. Garoppolo dropped a beauty into Samuel’s breadbasket and he motored down the field for 42 yards. Mostert and Garoppolo gained seven yards to close out the quarter.
After a Garoppolo incompletion, McLaughlin hit a 34-yard field goal to trim the lead to four.
The Ravens had one of their worst drives of the day, gaining three yards in three plays and necessitating a punt.
With 13 minutes left in regulation, Garoppolo hit Breida on a swing pass to gain 18 yards. Breida and Tevin Coleman had two short runs, but Goodwin bailed the 49ers out with 12 yards on a screen pass. Mostert picked up 23 yards on his next two carries, and Breida pushed the 49ers inside the Baltimore two-yard line. Coleman punched it in to give the 49ers a 27-24 lead with seven minutes to play.
After an Ingram two-yard run, Jackson overthrew Marquise Brown on back-to-back targets. The Ravens punted.
With under six minutes to play, Coleman picked up a pair of yards before Garoppolo found Goodwin for a first down. Kittle and Mostert gained 22 yards on the next two plays. Now on the Baltimore 26, Breida gained five yards on first down. After the two-minute warning. Coleman and Jeff Wilson combined to gain zero yards as the Ravens used their first two timeouts. With 1:52 left on the clock, McLaughlin knocked home a field goal to extend the 49er lead to 30-24.
The Ravens muffed the kickoff and settled with the ball at the 11. Jackson dropped back, scrambled, and gained five yards. He scrambled on second down, gaining 12 yards. Ingram and Edward reeled off 13 combined yards on two carries, managing to get out of bounds both times. Jackson added a third scramble of the drive, getting a first down and slipping out of bounds. After his fourth scramble and fourth trip out of bounds, Jackson handed the ball to Ingram who angled up the field, broke two tackles on the interior, and exploded forward for a 45-yard touchdown. Tucker broke the tie with an extra point.
With 57 seconds left in the Super Bowl, Garoppolo hit Samuel for nine yards before he got out of bounds. Garoppolo did his best Jackson impression, gaining seven yards and first down, but he was tackled in play, and the 49ers used their first timeout. Garoppolo had a pass knocked down at the line, and Coleman was pushed out of bounds after a one-yard catch. Tyus Bowser sacked Garoppolo on third down, bringing up a fourth-and-14 with the season on the line. Garoppolo rolled out of the pocket into the waiting arms of Carr, ending the game on a gutsy cornerback blitz.
After a pair of Jackson kneel-downs, the Ravens had captured their third Super Bowl of the 21st century with a 31-30 victory. Unlike Super Bowl XLVII, the lights did not unexpectedly go out.
Lamar Jackson was named MVP of the game, recording 95 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. He was quiet through the air, completing six of 13 passes for 80 yards. Brandon Carr nearly stole the honors away with a pair of sacks, including a game-sealing one, but quarterback bias prevailed.
Ingram was pedestrian on the ground before his 45-yard, game-winning touchdown. He had 91 yards across 17 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Only Willie Snead caught multiple passes. He had 54 yards while none of his teammates exceeded eight.
For the 49ers, Garoppolo had a productive day with 283 total yards and a passing touchdown. Samuel had 89 yards on four catches, and Mostert totaled 78 yards on 11 touches. All-Pro George Kittle was kept to 34 yards on four catches.
With 2019 accounted for, the seventh and eighth parts of this series will detail the extra Wild Card games of the 2018 season. The Steelers will travel to face the original Super Bowl champion Patriots, and the Vikings will head to Los Angeles to play the original NFC champion Rams.
As with 2019, additional parts will only occur if the Steelers and/or Vikings can pull the upset (as the 2019 Steelers did). Stay tuned.