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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Reunited with Kyle Shanahan, 49ers’ Alex Mack seeks Super Bowl redemption

Jan 28, 2022 at 8:01 PM--

The score was 28 - 9. The Atlanta Falcons had a seemingly insurmountable lead over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons were in total control after recovering an onside kick by the Patriots who had scored to pull within 19 points. With 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the ball at the New England 42 yard line, the Falcons were on the door step of what many felt would have been the knockout blow. Any points on this drive would have likely put the game out of reach. Facing 3rd and 11 the Falcons offense relinquished a sack to the Patriots defense which consequently took them out of field goal range. Needless to say, from that point Murphy's Law took over for the Falcons and whatever could go wrong did go wrong as Tom Brady and the Patriots pulled off the improbable comeback and the Falcons squandered away their chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The comeback was the largest in Super Bowl history and many feel that the Falcons organization has yet to recover from the collapse. The Falcons offensive coordinator in that Super Bowl was current 49er head coach Kyle Shanahan. The Center for the Falcons, was current 49er C Alex Mack. Five years later, the two have reunited and are one win away from a chance at Super Bowl redemption.

Aside from the injuries of the 2020 season, the interior offensive line play may have been the teams biggest disappointment that season. In most NFL offenses, the center position is typically responsible for the majority of the communication on the line and the identification of the defense's front seven. They work hand in hand with the quarterback to help them set the protection on pass plays and call out assignments when the offense is running the ball. During the 2020 season the 49ers shuffled through players before ultimately failing to find someone to take control of the center position. HC Kyle Shanahan knew the position desperately needed to be stabilized with key players set to return from injury this season. With former All Pro C Alex Mack headed to free agency this past offseason, both Mack and Shanahan felt this would be the perfect opportunity to reunite and make a run at the Lombardi that was once within their grasp.

The addition of the six time pro bowl center has brought much needed continuity to the 49er offensive line, as the former 2009 first round pick of the Cleveland Browns has started all 19 games for the 49ers this season. His presence has solidified the 49er pass protection which has given up only 33 sacks this season. Furthermore, the 49ers have also increased their production on the ground this season. Last year, the team rushed for 1,889 yards. This season, with Mack in the middle, the 49ers increased their rushing total to 2,166. While there is no denying that Mack has played a key role in the 49ers' offensive improvements this season, it all goes out the window if the 49ers don't get a win in Sunday's NFC Championship game in Mack's hometown of Los Angeles.

As the 49ers head into SoFi stadium to try and capture their second NFC title in three years, the play of Alex Mack will likely be the key ingredient to the 49ers victory. Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald is arguably the best overall player in the NFL. Donald's ability to wreck games from the interior has been well documented and the 49ers know that his play must be neutralized if they are going to extend their current six game win streak over Donald and the Rams to seven. Mack is poised to match wits and strength with the all pro Donald in the trenches this Sunday and knows that the winner of this battle in particular could be the determining factor in who goes on to play for the Super Bowl on February 13th in the same stadium.

Much has been made about the grit of this 49er team as they have defied both the odds and the elements in their last three games to arrive on the doorstep of the Super Bowl. Some may attest that their resolve has been built by their own Super Bowl collapse in Super Bowl LIV. Whatever the case, the 49ers appear determined do what is necessary to get another shot at bringing the franchise a sixth Super Bowl ring. 49er fans can expect that C Alex Mack will bring his "A game" as he looks to get his second chance at winning his first Super Bowl. It's very likely that the memories of Super Bowl LI will live with him and 49er head coach Kyle Shanahan forever—so too would the memories of Super Bowl LVI if the pair can find redemption and lead the 49ers to the ever elusive Super Bowl victory.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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